Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 697–701 | Cite as

Relationships Between Sex and Stress Hormone Levels in Feces and Marking Behavior in a Wild Population of Iberian Wolves (Canis lupus signatus)

  • Isabel BarjaEmail author
  • Gema Silván
  • Juan Carlos Illera


Feces deposited by the breeding alpha pair on exposed substrates and/or zones may act as visual and olfactory marks associated with social dominance in wolves. The aim of this study was to determine if there was a correlation between marking behavior, sex hormone levels, and physiological stress in a wild population of Iberian wolves in Northwest Spain. The glucocorticoid and sex hormone levels were measured in feces collected as a function of exposure (conspicuous/inconspicuous), height (above ground level/at ground level), and strategic location in the habitat (at crossroads/off crossroads), as well as the frequency of re-marking. The feces, believed to serve as marking cues, had higher glucocorticoid levels (cortisol) and sex hormones (testosterone, progesterone, and estradiol). The results suggest that in Iberian wolves, the alpha pair is subject to higher social stress than subordinate individuals, and that the reproductive suppression of subordinates is not mediated by chronic glucocorticoid elevation.


Fecal marking behavior Iberian wolf Sex hormones Social rank Stress responses 



We express our thanks to the Xunta de Galicia and Nature Conservation Service of Ourense for allowing us to perform the study in the Natural Park Montes do Invernadeiro. We thank Stefano Rosellini and Ana Piñeiro for their help in the field, and appreciate the invaluable help of the gamekeepers Tomás Pérez, Ricardo Prieto, and Paco Barja during the data collection in the field. We are grateful to Jeremy N. McNeil and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This study has been partially supported by the Projects: USEK, no. 7-2004-05, Universidad SEK de Segovia and CAM-UCM no. 920694.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabel Barja
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gema Silván
    • 2
  • Juan Carlos Illera
    • 2
  1. 1.Unidad Zoología, Departamento de Biología, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Fisiología (Fisiología Animal), Facultad de VeterinariaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain

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