, Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 2747-2762

Putative Pheromones in Urine of Rutting Male Moose (Alces alces): Evolution of Honest Advertisement?

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We tested hypotheses about how olfactory communication was related to mating behavior in Alaskan moose (Alces alces gigas). Males dig rutting pits where they deposit odiferous urine; females are strongly attracted to and often wallow in those pits. Moreover, mating and parturition are highly synchronized in moose. Consequently, male urine may play an important role in the mating system and in synchronizing reproduction in moose. Urine samples were collected from captive moose on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Samples included those from the mating season and from the nonrutting period for two adult males, one yearling male, and one male and one female less than 1 year old. After pH adjustment, samples were extracted with methylene chloride to yield three fractions (acidic, neutral, and basic), which were analyzed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Potential pheromones included unsaturated alcohols and homologs of tetrahydro-6-methyl pyranone and 2-nonen-4-one. We hypothesize that these compounds are related to hypophagia and catabolism of body reserves by rutting males, and thereby provide an honest advertisement of body condition by male moose during the mating season.