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Behavioral studies have shown that flank glands are involved in chemical communication in golden hamsters Mesocricetus auratus but little chemical analysis has been conducted on volatiles arising from these glands. Using gas chromatography- mass spectrometry, we detected compounds from the flank glands of males, only eight of which were also produced in females. Based on these chemical data we performed a number of further experiments. By manipulating light we found that males exposed to short-photoperiods developed smaller flank glands than those exposed to long-photoperiods. Six flank gland volatiles reduced in relative abundance, which possibly coded for reproductive status of males of this seasonally breeding hamster species. Through dyadic encounters, we were able to induce the formation of dominant-subordinate relationships and show that two glandular compounds became high in relative abundance and may function as dominance pheromones. Castration eliminated all male-specific compounds resulting from flank glands, but bilateral ovariectomies only affected one compound in females. Once these ovariectomized females were treated with testosterone, their glandular compounds resembled those of males, suggesting these compounds are under the main control of androgen. Two female putative pheromones, tetradecanoic acid and hexadecanoic acid, were used in binary choice tests and were both found to attract males over females. Applying a solution of these pheromone compounds to adult males also suppressed their agonistic behavior.
Ying-Juan Liu, Da-Wei Wang, Lixing Sun, Jin-Hua Zhang, Jian-Xu Zhang, Flank gland-secreted putative chemosignals pertaining to photoperiod, endocrine states, and sociosexual behavior in golden hamsters, Current Zoology, Volume 56, Issue 6, 1 December 2010, Pages 800–812, https://doi.org/10.1093/czoolo/56.6.800
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