Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 715–734 | Cite as

Pheromonal activity of single castoreum constituents in beaver,Castor canadensis

  • D. Müller-Schwarze
  • Peter W. Houlihan


Behavioral activity of single components of beaver castoreum was demonstrated for the first time. In four experiments samples were presented to free-ranging beaver in their family territories. First, responses to whole castoreum and anal gland secretion (AGS) from males and females were tested. Second, 24 compounds, known to be constituents of beaver castoreum, were individually screened for activity. Four of these consistently released immediate responses during the observation periods. These are the phenols 4-ethylphenol and 1,2-dihydroxybenzene and the ketones acetophenone and 3-hydroxyacetophenone. In the most complete responses, the beaver sniffed from the water, were attracted to the odor, swam toward its source, went on land, and then approached, sniffed, pawed, and scent-marked the artificial scent mound. 4-Ethoxyphenol, a compound not yet found in castoreum, also released these responses. Five additional compounds resulted in a few delayed visits to the samples during the night following the observations, as evidenced by destroyed scent mounds. These are 4-methyl-1,2-dihydroxybenzene, 4-methoxyacetophenone, 5-methoxysalicylic acid, salicylaldehyde, and 3-hydroxybenzoic acid. Third, mixtures of 24 and six compounds were tested. Responses to these mixtures could be as strong as those to whole castoreum. Fourth, the four regularly active compounds were tested in two additional beaver populations and proved to be active there, too. The response was strongest in the densest beaver population.

Key Words

Adirondacks beaver bioassay Castor canadensis castoreum field study New York phenols pheromone scent marks territorial marking 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albone, E.S. 1984. Mammalian Semiochemistry: The Investigation of Chemical Signals Between Mammals. John Wiley & Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Buech, R.R. 1989. Markov analysis of the behavior of beavers (Castor canadensis) living in lake habitats of a near-boreal forest region. Abstract, 3rd International Beaver Symposium, Rome, Italy, August 23, 1989.Google Scholar
  3. Conover, W.J. 1980. Practical Nonparametric Statistics. John Wiley & Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Epple, G., Belcher, A.M., andSmith, A.B., III. 1986. Chemical signals in callitrichid monkeys-a comparative review, pp. 653–672in D. Duvall, D. Müller-Schwarze, and R.M. Silverstein (eds.). Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, 4. Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Houlihan, P.W. 1989. Scent mounding by beaver (Castor canadensis): Functional and semiochemical aspects. M.S. thesis. State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York. December 1989.Google Scholar
  6. Katsir, Z., andCrew, R.M. 1980. Chemical communication inGalago crassicaudatus: Investigation of the chest gland secretion.South Afr. J. Zool. 15:249–254.Google Scholar
  7. Lederer, E. 1946. Chemistry and biochemistry of the scent glands of the beaver,Castor fiber. Nature 157:231–232.Google Scholar
  8. Lederer, E. 1950. Odeurs et parfums des animaux.Fortschr. Chem. Org. Naturst. 6:87.Google Scholar
  9. Maurer, B., andOhloff, G. 1976. Zur Kenntnis der stickstoffhaltigen Inhaltsstoffe von Castoreum.Helv. Chim. Acta 59:1169–1185.Google Scholar
  10. Melrose, D.R., Reed, H.C.B., andPatterson, R.L.S. 1971. Androgen steroids associated with boar odour as an aid to the detection of oestrus in pig artificial insemination.Br. Vet. J. 127:497–501.Google Scholar
  11. Müller-Schwarze, D., Morehouse, L., Corradi, R., Zhao, C.-H., andSilverstein, R.M. 1986. Odor images: Responses of beaver to castoreum fractions, pp. 561–570,in D. Duvall, D. Müller-Schwarze, and R.M. Silverstein (eds.). Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, Vol. 4. Plenum, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Novotny, M., Harvey, S., Jemiolo, B., andAlberts, J. 1985. Synthetic pheromones that promote inter-male aggression in mice.Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 82:2059–2061.Google Scholar
  13. Novotny, M., Jemiolo, B., Harvey, S., Wiesler, D., andMarchlewska-Koj, A. 1986. Adrenal-mediated endogenous metabolites inhibit puberty in female, mice.Science 231:722–725.Google Scholar
  14. Singer, A.G., Agosta, W.C., O'Connell, R.J., Pfaffman, C., Bowen, D.V., andField, F.H. 1976. Dimethyl disulfide: An attractant pheromone in hamster vaginal secretions.Science 191:950.Google Scholar
  15. Singer, A.G., Agosta, W.C., Clancy, A.N., andMacrides, F. 1987. The chemistry of vomeronasally detected pheromones: Characterization of an aphrodisiac protein.Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 519:287–298.Google Scholar
  16. Svendsen, G.E., andHuntsman, W.D. 1988. A field bioassay of beaver castoreum and some of its components.Am. Mid. Nat. 120:144–149.Google Scholar
  17. Valenta, Z. andKhaleque, A. 1959. The structure of castoramine.Tetrahedron Lett. 12:1–5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Müller-Schwarze
    • 1
  • Peter W. Houlihan
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Environmental Science and ForestryState University of New YorkSyracuse

Personalised recommendations