Nephews, Cousins . . . Who Cares? Detecting kin doesn't mean favoring them | Science News

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Nephews, Cousins . . . Who Cares? Detecting kin doesn't mean favoring them

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1:27pm, March 27, 2002

New tests of the amazing nose power of Belding's ground squirrels have solved a 25-year-old puzzle about doing dangerous favors for relatives.

Classic studies beginning in 1977 showed that female Belding's ground squirrels sound alarms or defend burrows to help their mothers, sisters, or daughters. Yet cousins and extended family get no more assistance than strangers do.

Are the ground squirrels unable to tell who their cousins are? Or do they just not go to the trouble of aiding them?

The answer seems to be the latter, says Jill Mateo of Cornell University. By sniffing, the squirrels can detect distant members of their extended family, yet they still treat them like outsiders, she reports in th

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