, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 145-156
Date: 22 Feb 2012

Investigation of Scents on Cheeks and Foreheads of Large Felines in Connection to the Facial Marking Behavior

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We investigated head- and cheek-rubbing behavior in four species of large felines, lions (Leo panther), leopards (Panthera pardus), tigers (Panthera tigris), and cougars (Puma concolor), in captivity. Preliminary behavioral observations found that lions and tigers, but not leopards and cougars, showed behavioral responses to cardboard rubbing samples from head and cheek areas from conspecific felines, compared to the blank cardboard controls. In this context, surface samples on the facial areas of each species were collected to analyze volatile organic compounds that could be involved in the facial marking of felines. Previously developed stir bar surface sampling methodology was used. From all cheek and forehead samples, 100 volatile organic compounds were identified or tentatively identified. Among these, 41 have been previously reported to be present in feline urine and marking secretions. Several new compounds were identified on facial surfaces. Some of the compounds showed substantial quantitative differences among the species. One compound, that has not been reported previously in mammals, 3-acetamidofuran, was found in all investigated species. It was synthesized and tested for behavioral responses. No responses were elicited in a preliminary test. Future research will test other potential signaling compounds and their mixtures for ability to elicit behavioral responses.