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Penguins may sniff out relatives

Zoo study sees hints of odor-based kin recognition

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4:07pm, September 22, 2011

Penguins may be able to smell some feathery, waddling whiff of kinship on others of their kind.

In some sniff tests, Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) in the Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago could discriminate between the odor of birds they knew and birds they weren’t familiar with, says Jill Mateo of the University of Chicago. More intriguingly, the birds also showed evidence of an ability to distinguish between the scents of relatives and nonrelatives even if they weren’t personally familiar with the scent owners, Mateo and her colleagues report September 21 in PLoS ONE.

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