Male panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) urine contains kinship information

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Department or Administrative Unit

Biological Sciences

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Chemical communication plays an important role in kin selection and mate choice in mammals. The covariance of odor-genes of rodents has been documented and kinship odor has been proposed and termed, yet little is known of the relationship between genetic relatedness and chemical composition of kinship odors. Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) rely substantially on chemical communication to mediate their social interactions. To examine the relationship between genetic relatedness and compounds in the urine/anogenital gland secretions, we compared the similarities between genetic relatedness and the chemical profiles of anogenital gland secretions and urine via lineage construction and GC-MS (gas chromatography and mass spectrometry). We found that information about kinship odors was present only in the urine of male adults in the mating season but absent in the non-mating season. Adult females and all sub-adults did not have such kinship odors in either mating or non-mating season. Therefore, kinship odor in the panda was contingent on age, sex, and season. This is the first report about the condition-dependent expression of kinship odor, which may have a significant implication in the practice of panda conservation in relation to chemical communication and sexual selection.


This article was originally published in Chinese Science Bulletin. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Chinese Science Bulletin


© 2008 Science in China Press