Anogenital Gland Secretions Code for Sex and Age in the Giant Panda, Ailuropoda Melanoleuca

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Biological Sciences

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Anogenital gland secretions play a major role in chemical communication by giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca (David, 1869). We analyzed 45 samples of anogenital gland secretions collected from 24 captive pandas (5 male adults, 6 female adults, 6 male subadults, and 7 female subadults) by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. The secretions contained over 95 compounds. Based on 56 common compounds (relative abundances >0.1%) shared by more than three individuals, we identified steroids, long-chain fatty acids, fatty-acid esters, aldehydes, alkanes, alkenes, amines, terpenes, and furans. The chemical composition of each secretion was individual-specific. Although none of these individual compounds was age- or sex-specific, the relative abundances of several compounds differed between males and females and between adults and subadults. This result shows that information about sex and age could be coded in analog form. Information about age but not gender could also be digitally coded by the presence or absence of some of the 56 compounds, in addition to the analog coding.


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Canadian Journal of Zoology


Copyright © 2004 Canadian Science Publishing