Anogenital gland secretions code for sex and age in the giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Authors: Yuan, Hong; Liu, Dingzhen; Sun, Lixing; Wei, Rongping; Zhang, Guiquan; Sun, Ruyong

Source: Canadian Journal of Zoology, Volume 82, Number 10, October 2004 , pp. 1596-1604(9)

Publisher: NRC Research Press

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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.

Les sécrétions de la glande génito-anale jouent un rôle important dans la communication chimique chez les grands pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca (David, 1869). Nous avons analysé 45 prélèvements des sécrétions de la glande génito-anale provenant de 24 pandas en captivité (5 adultes mâles, 6 adultes femelles, 6 subadultes mâles, 7 subadultes femelles) par chromatographie gazeuse et spectrométrie de masse. Les sécrétions contiennent plus de 95 composés. Parmi les 56 des composés communs (d'abondance relative >0,1 %) présents chez plus de trois individus, nous avons identifié des stéroïdes, des acides gras à longue chaîne, des esters d'acides gras, des aldéhydes, des alcanes, des alcènes, des amines, des terpènes et des furanes. La composition chimique des sécrétions est propre à chaque individu. Bien qu'aucun de ces composés ne soit spécifique à un âge ou un sexe, l'abondance relative de plusieurs composés diffère entre les mâles et les femelles et entre les adultes et les subadultes. Ces résultats indiquent que l'information concernant le sexe et l'âge peut être codée de manière analogique. L'information concernant l'âge, mais non le sexe, peut aussi être codée de façon digitale d'après la présence oabsence de certains des 56 composés, en plus de la codification analogique.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2004

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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