In this comprehensive account of olfactory communication and territorial behavior in the Mongolian gerbil, Del Thiessen and PaulineYahr provide the first detailed study of the neurological and physiological mechanisms that control these basic functions. In addition to explaining the links between hormones, genes, olfactory cues, and territorial acts, they also offer a more general picture of gerbil behavior, as well as a brief look at other mammalian species that communicate social status by way of olfactory messages.
Territorial behavior, as defined by the authors, includes all acts that are restricted to a particular area and are crucial for successful reproduction. In the Mongolian gerbil, and probably in other mammals as well, territoriality is controlled by sex hormones acting on specific areas of the central nervous system. Hormones from the gonads apparently act in the brain by altering the genetic apparatus controlling biochemicals used in neural communication. Without these hormones, the animal is socially inert and unable to transmit genes to the next generation. The authors conclude from the results of over ten years of investigation that the most complex social interactions depend on the integrity of the hormone system and its constant tuning by olfactory stimuli.
The book incorporates a review of all previously known studies of gerbil behavior and representative data for many other scent-marking species. A stereotaxic brain atlas for the gerbil is a feature that will be especially helpful to other researchers. The book's eclectic nature should make it valuable to anyone concerned with territorial behavior, hormones and behavior, or brain processes, as well as to those who are specifically interested in the Mongolian gerbil.