ABS 2022
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Defining the olfactory landscape to better understand animal movement and decision-making
Patrick B. Finnerty1, Clare McArthur1, Catherine Price1, Peter Banks1, Adrian M. Shrader2. 1The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia; 2University of Pretoria, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

Across a landscape, ‘external factors’ (both the physical environment and living organisms) are key drivers of animal behavior, movement and decision making. Yet the information and sensory mechanisms animals use to detect and respond to these external factors are seldom discussed. Here we highlight the importance of odor as a major information source many animals use to make non-random decisions to move. Odor is everywhere, emitted across the landscape from predators, prey, decaying carcasses, conspecifics, vegetation, surface water and smoke. Many animals exploit odor to find food, avoid threats, and attract or judge potential mates. Here, we focus on odor in terrestrial ecosystems to introduce the concept of an olfactory landscape: real-time dynamic olfactory contours reflecting the patchy distribution of resources and risks, providing a key source of information used by many animals in their movement and decision-making. Incorporating the olfactory landscape into current frameworks of animal behavior will provide a mechanistic link to help answer significant questions about where, why, and when many animals move, and how they do so efficiently in both space and time.