OLFACTORY SENSITIVITY OF THE TURKEY VULTURE (CATHARTES AURA) TO THREE CARRION-ASSOCIATED ODORANTS

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) Science Article 2

abstract

The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) is generally thought to rely on olfactory cues to locate carrion. Because vertically rising odorants are dispersed rapidly by wind turbulence, we predict that Turkey Vultures should be highly sensitive to these chemicals to detect them at foraging altitudes. Olfactory thresholds to three by-products of animal decomposition (1 x 10 -6 M for butanoic acid and ethanethiol, and 1 x 10 -5 M for trimethylamine) were determined from heartrate responses. These relatively high thresholds indicate that these odorantsa re probably not cues for foraging Turkey Vultures. Odorant thresholds, food habits of Turkey Vultures, and the theoretical properties of odorant dispersion cast some doubt on the general importance of olfaction in food location by this species.

STEVEN A. SMITH, RICHARD A. PASELK, The Auk 103: 586-592

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