Chapter

Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 12

pp 417-432

Date:

A Reverse-Engineering Approach to Identifying Which Compounds to Bioassay for Signalling Activity in the Scent Marks of African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus)

  • Peter AppsAffiliated withPaul G. Allen Family Foundation Laboratory for Wildlife Chemistry, Botswana Predator Conservation Trust Email author 
  • , Lesego MmualefeAffiliated withPaul G. Allen Family Foundation Laboratory for Wildlife Chemistry, Botswana Predator Conservation Trust
  • , J. Weldon McNuttAffiliated withPaul G. Allen Family Foundation Laboratory for Wildlife Chemistry, Botswana Predator Conservation Trust

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Abstract

Scent marks can potentially be used to manage the movement patterns of free-ranging mammals. We are investigating the possibility that using synthetic scent marks to create artificial range boundaries will help to keep African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) inside the safety of wildlife conservation areas. For this we need to produce synthetic scent marks, and so we need to identify which compounds among the hundreds in real scent marks are semiochemically active so that they can be formulated into the synthetic marks. Approaches that have previously been applied to locate and identify signalling compounds in mammal scent marks cannot be used on African wild dogs and so we are using “reverse-engineering” to locate and identify which compounds we should prioritise in bioassays for spatial semiochemical activity. For a compound, or a suite of compounds to be considered to be a good candidate for a spatial semiochemical role, it has to be species-specific, potentially airborne, persistent, and present in urine and not in faeces. We have used GC-MS to identify 102 components of African wild dog urine, faeces, and preputial tufts. Most of the major components are carboxylic acids and other compounds that are ubiquitous in mammal scents. Eighty-three of the identified components are poor candidates as single compound spatial semiochemicals because they also occur in other mammals that are sympatric with wild dogs. Four components from wild dog urine, pyridine, N,N-dimethylacetamide, propanamide, and ­1-methylimidazole-5-carboxaldehyde, meet the design criteria for spatial semiochemicals. These compounds are priority candidates for testing in artificial scent marks.