Why some animals use noxious scents while others live in social groups to defend themselves against predators is the question that biologists sought to answer through a comprehensive analysis of predator-prey interactions among carnivorous mammals and birds of prey.
“The idea is that we’re trying to explain why certain antipredator traits evolved in some species but not others,” says biologist Theodore Stankowich of California State University, Long Beach.
The findings appear in the online edition of the journal Evolution.
Stankowich notes that this study not only explains why skunks are stinky and why banded mongooses live in groups but also breaks new ground in the methodology of estimating predation risks.
Stankowich, Tim Caro of University of California, Davis, and Paul Haverkamp, a geographer who recently completed his PhD at UC Davis, collected data on 181 species of carnivores, a group in which many species are small and under threat from other animals…
The American hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus leuconotus) is a species of hog-nosed skunk from Central and North America, and is one of the largest skunks in the world, growing to lengths of up to 2.7 feet (82.5 cm). Recent work has concluded the western hog-nosed skunk (formerly Conepatus mesoleucus) is the same species, and Conepatus leuconotus is the correct name of the merged populations. In Texas, it is commonly known as the rooter skunk for its habit of rooting and overturning rocks and debris in search of food…
There are 9 species of skunk that are endemic to the Americas.
They are, of course, best known for their defensive spray, which they can project up to 12 ft (3.75 m). If got in the eyes, it can cause temporarily blindness, but even the surprise and the smell can provide enough of a window for escape. The smell doesn’t just bother humans - most mammals are also deterred and won’t attack a skunk; the main predator of skunks is actually Great Horned Owls, as birds have a very poor sense of smell.
Skunks used to be classified in the Family Mustelidae - the weasels and other musk-producing animals - but are now placed in their own family, the Mephitidae.
The Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis), pictured, is the most widespread in North America, found from northern Mexico north into the Canadian boreal forests. Like all skunks, it is omnivorous, but mostly eats invertebrates. It, and other skunks, will sometimes dig at bee nests, eating the guards who come out to investigate and relying on their thick fur to protect them from stings.
These small, 6 lb skunk are indigenous to Argentina and Chile. Their coats can vary from black to a dark reddish brown with a divided stripe going along both sides of the spine.
Their powerful front paws and claws are used for digging turning over debris. They are primarily insectivores. Their bare fleshy noses help them forage for insects and will rely on small rodents and can even scavenge for carrion when insects are scarce. ’
Hog nosed skunks are vulnerable to habitat destruction, but the main concern lies on American Hog Nosed Skunks. Studies on population are being considered on the Humboldt’s Hog Nosed Skunk.
Also known as the Teledu, Malay or Javan stink badger or the Indonesian stink badger, the Sunda stink badger is not a badger but a species of skunk found on the Islands of Borneo, Java and Sumatra. Like other skunks the Sunda stink badger is a nocturnal omnivore and feeds on small insects and other small invertebrates. The Sunda stink badger is notoriously known for the foul smelling liquid which it can secret from its anal gland, which is especially strong when compared to other skunk species.
Also known as the pantot, the Palawan stink badger is not a badger at all but a species of skunk native to the island of Palawan in the Philippines. Like their more well known relatives stink badgers are nocturnal and hunt at night for invertebrates and small insects which they dig out with their large paws. Also like skunks they possess scent glands which can spray strong smelling liquids that can be smelled from a mile away.
Skunks are legendary for their powerful predator-deterrent—a hard-to-remove, horrible-smelling spray. A skunk’s spray is an oily liquid produced by glands under its large tail. To employ this scent bomb, a skunk turns around and blasts its foe with a foul mist that can travel as far as ten feet (three meters).
Skunk spray causes no real damage to its victims, but it sure makes them uncomfortable. It can linger for many days and defy attempts to remove it. As a defensive technique, the spray is very effective. Predators typically give skunks a wide berth unless little other food is available.
There are many different kinds of skunks. They vary in size (most are house cat-sized) and appear in a variety of striped, spotted, and swirled patterns—but all are a vivid black-and-white that makes them easily identifiable and may alert predators to their pungent potential…
Why Skunks Have Stripes - To Point To Fierce Anal Glands?
by Rachel Kaufman
A skunk's stripes aren't just for style: They may direct predators' eyes straight to the source of the animal's smelly anal spray.
A new analysis of data on and pictures of nearly 200 carnivorous mammals—including skunks, badgers, and wolverines—shows that fierce fighters tend to be more boldly colored than more peaceable animals, which tend to use camouflage to stay safe. And those colorations depend on the animals’ methods of defense.
Creatures such as skunks, which have long stripes down their body, “tend to be really good at spraying their anal gland secretions—not just dribbling them out,” said study leader Ted Stankowich, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Skunks are known to eject their offensive musk as far as about ten feet (three meters).
Other “species that are pretty good at [spraying]—they may not have pure stripes, but their blotches sort of form a stripe down the body.” On the other end, badgers—which bite attackers—often have stripes by their mouths. “We think these stripes may guide predators’ attention to the source of danger,” said Stankowich. “If you’re a badger and your mouth is the source of danger, that’s what you want to advertise.”…