Possible coding for recognition of sexes, individuals and species in anal gland volatiles of Mustela eversmanni and M. Sibirica

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With a combination of solvent extraction and gas chromatography—mass spectrometry, we found eight new compounds in the two sympatric Mustela species, M. eversmanni and M. sibirica. These compounds had not been detected by headspace sampling with solvent desorption. Two of the newly detected compounds are nitrogen-containing compounds, indole and o-aminoacetophenone and the remaining are sulfur-containing volatiles. By comparing same and opposite sexes between the two Mustela species, we found that qualitative differences in the anal gland secretion are most likely to be used to code for information about species, corresponding to the idea of digital coding. In the Siberian weasel (M. sibirica), both presence or absence of sex-specific compounds (Z-2-ethyl-3-methylthietane only in females) and relative abundance of some compounds between males and females could be used to code for information about sex, corresponding to the idea of digital and analog coding, respectively. In the steppe polecat (M. eversmanni), only quantitative differences provided the possibility for inter-sexual communication. Thus coding for information about sex appeared to be digital. Coding for individual information could also be either digital or analog or both through the presence or absence of certain compounds and/or the difference in the relative abundances of certain compounds among individuals. Comparing with other Mustela spp., we failed to find a congruence between the chemical composition of anal gland secretions and the phylogenetic relationship among the species in this genus.


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

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Chemical Senses


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