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The Role of Scent Marking in Mate Selection by Female Pumas (Puma concolor)


Mate selection influences individual fitness, is often based on complex cues and behaviours, and can be difficult to study in solitary species including carnivores. We used motion-triggered cameras at 29 community scrapes (i.e. scent marking locations used by multiple individuals) and home range data from 39 GPS-collared pumas (Puma concolor) to assess the relevance of communication behaviours for mate selection by female pumas in California. Female pumas visited community scrapes irregularly and visitation bouts appeared to be correlated with oestrus. Female pumas on average selected from 1.7 collared males, and selection was based on multiple cues that varied among the different time periods measured (i.e. the female's visitation bout and in 90 days previous to the consorting event). Female mate selection over the course of a visitation bout was based on frequency of the male visitation, mass, and age. In the 90 days previous to consorting, the number of scrapes a male created was the most important contributor to selection, which was likely related to his residency status. We also found that at least 14% of females mated with multiple males, thus possibly confusing paternity. Our findings provide a mechanistic understanding of how female pumas use scent and auditory communication at community scrapes to select dominant resident males to mate with.

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