How rhinos use poo to communicate with each other

  • 15 January 2017
white rhino Image copyright Getty Images

A new study says that rhinos have a smelly way to keep up with the gossip - leaving messages in poo.

Scientists have been getting up close and personal with white rhinos' dung heaps in South Africa, and found that they were leaving messages for other rhinos.

It works because the different animals leave different chemicals in their poo, which other rhinos can smell to get clues about the rhino it came from.

From those chemicals, you can work out the rhinos age, gender, whether it's looking for more territory, or is ready to mate.

That's really important, because it means all the rhinos in the group know what's going on with each other so it's less likely they will fight.

Researchers even got involved, by making fake poo pretending to be different rhinos.

They found that dominant male rhinos acted different depending on which poo they were copying.

For example, they were most interested in the fake poo which had the same chemicals as a female rhino that was ready to mate. The male sniffed it for longer, and came back to the same spot more.

It's not unusual for animals to communicate through smells - that's why dogs often sniff around lamp-posts where other dogs have weed before.

But rhinos are different because they use poo instead, and they leave it in the same place for all the other rhinos in their group to smell - like leaving messages on social media.

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