Putative Chemical Signals from White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus): Social and Seasonal Effects on Urinary Volatile Excretion in Males
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- Miller, K.V., Jemiolo, B., Gassett, J.W. et al. J Chem Ecol (1998) 24: 673. doi:10.1023/A:1022342219469
Urine samples collected from dominant and subordinate male white-tailed deer during the breeding and nonbreeding season were analyzed by combined gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Fifty-five volatiles were found in measurable quantities. Ketones were most numerous, followed by alcohols and alkanes. Nine compounds were common to both dominants and subordinates during the breeding season. Of these nine, three were present in higher concentrations in dominants, and six were higher in subordinates. During the breeding season, nine compounds were found exclusively in the urine of dominants, whereas 19 compounds were found exclusively in the urine of subordinates. Concentrations of several compounds were dependent on the time of year (breeding vs. nonbreeding season). Differences in compound presence and concentration may produce a rank-specific odor, although we suggest that differing concentrations of these suites of compounds may be more important for the identification of social status than the presence of individual compounds. Since mature male white-tailed deer urinate on their tarsal glands frequently during the breeding season, this behavior may allow a deer to simultaneously scent-mark its environment and carry intraspecific cues indicative of social status.