Potential Chemosignals in the Anogenital Gland Secretion of Giant Pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, Associated with Sex and Individual Identity

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Biological Sciences

Publication Date



With a combination of dichloromethane extraction and analysis by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS), we found 39 compounds (corresponding to 38 GC peaks) in the anogenital gland secretion (AGS) of captive adult giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, during the non-mating season. In addition to indole, squalene, and some of the straight-chain fatty acids that had been characterized previously from the AGS of giant pandas, we identified several new compounds such as decenal, two isomers of decadienal, phenylacetic acid, 5-methylhydantoin, hydroquinone, phenylpropanoic acid, and erucic acid. Quantitative comparison of the relative abundances of the 20 main GC peaks revealed that 5-methylhydantoin, indole, and erucic acid are putative female pheromones, whereas squalene and hydroquinone are putative male pheromones. In addition to the presence of a few individual-specific compounds, the relative abundances of most of the 21 constituents varied more among individuals than within individuals. This suggests that individual identity might be coded in both digital and analog form. The chemical composition of different AGS samples from the same pandas consistently displayed a minimum cluster distance, much smaller than that between samples from different individuals in a hierarchical linkage cluster (average linkage) dendrogram. Our results indicate that the AGS might contain an “odor fingerprint.” Although putative sex pheromones such as squalene and erucic acid should be assessed further by bioassay, our study suggests that synthetic chemosignals might be useful in modulating the behavior and physiology of giant pandas.


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

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download through ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Journal of Chemical Ecology


Copyright © 2008 Springer