Volatile Compounds in Anal Gland of Siberian Weasels (Mustela sibirica) and Steppe Polecats (M. eversmanni)

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The volatile constituents in anal gland secretions of two sympatric Mustela species, the Siberian weasel (M. sibirica) and steppe polecat (M. eversmanni), were studied by the headspace technique, followed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis. Nine sulfur-containing compounds were identified. They were 2,2-dimethylthietane, (Z)- or (E)-2,4-dimethylthietane, (E)-2,3-dimethylthietane, 2-ethylthietane, (E)-2-ethyl-3-methylthietane, (Z)-2-ethyl-3-methylthietane, 2-propylthietane, 3,3-dimethyl-1,2-dithiacyclopentane, and (Z)-3,4-dimethyl-2,2-dithiacyclopentane. Among them, (E)-2-ethyl-3- methylthietanes, (Z)-2-ethyl-3-methylthietanes, and (Z)-3,4-dimethyl-1,2-dithiacyclopentane were present in the polecat but not in the weasel. The predominant compound was 2,2-dimethylthietane in the weasel and (E)- or (Z)-2,4-dimethylthietane in the polecat. These differences were consistent between the two species, regardless of sex and age and, therefore, could possibly be used for species recognition. In the weasel, 2-ethylthietane was found only in the female, and the relative abundance of several compounds was significantly different between males and females. In the polecat, although no sex-specific volatile compounds were found, males and females differed in the relative abundance of several of the compounds. In both species, the relative abundance of some compounds varied with age. We conclude that these volatile compounds can be used to communicate information about species, sex, and age.


This article was originally published in Journal of Chemical Ecology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Journal of Chemical Ecology


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