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Olfactory discrimination between Dipodomys merriami and Dipodomys panamintinus
A series of experiments was designed to determine the role of the dorsal skin gland in olfactory discrimination and chemical communication in two sympatric species of kangaroo rats, Dipodomys merriami and Dipodomys panamintinus. Experimental animals were tested for responses to odors of the opposite sex of both species. Thin layer chromatographic studies of lipids of the back and of the dorsal skin gland, as well as histological studies of the latter, were performed. Results indicate that, at least under the conditions of these experiments, individuals of D. merriami and D. panamintinus may distinguish between homospecific and heterospecific individuals by chemical cues, although the source of the odor producing chemical is not known. Olfactory stimuli probably play a role in establishment of pair bonds by orienting search behavior of both males and females toward conspecifics. Skin lipids alone, however, are not effective as agents of species discrimination, but may still have a role in chemical communication.