Olfactory discrimination in the western lowland gorilla, Gorilla gorilla gorilla

Peter Hepper, Deborah Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The olfactory abilities of great apes have been subject to little empirical investigation, save for a few observational reports. This study, using an habituation/dishabituation task, provides experimental evidence for a core olfactory ability, namely, olfactory discrimination, in the gorilla. In Experiment 1, six zoo-housed western lowland gorillas were individually presented with the same odour on four trials, and with a novel odour on the fifth trial. Odours (almond and vanilla) were presented on plastic balls, and behavioural responses of sniffing and chewing/licking the balls were recorded. A second experiment presented the same odour on four trials and no odour on the fifth to examine whether any dishabituation was due to the presence of a new odour or the absence of the familiar odour. Gorillas habituated their behaviour with repeated presentation of the same odour, but dishabituated, i. e. increased sniffing and chewing/licking, when presented with the novel odour. No dishabituation was noted when using water as the stimulus across all trials or when used as the novel odour. Overall, results show that gorillas are able to discriminate between odours. © 2012 Japan Monkey Centre and Springer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-126
Number of pages6
JournalPrimates
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

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