The Giant panda communicates with conspecifics by depositing a mixture of volatile compounds (called scent marks) on trees and rocks. Using mass spectrometry, we identified 951 chemical components from scent glands, urine, vaginal secretions, and scent marks made by pandas. The scent marks of the two genders contained a similar array of chemicals but varied in concentration; specifically, males possessed a significantly greater amount of short chain fatty acids (F(1, 29) = 18.4, P = 0.002). Using stepwise discriminate analysis on the relative proportions of a subset of these chemicals, it was possible to classify gender (94% for males and females) and individuality (81% for males and 91% for females) from scent marks. The power to identify individual males was reduced due to the relatedness of two subjects. By cracking the identity code of Giant panda communication, we show insights into how these animals can match individuals with unique chemical profiles. Since radiocollaring is currently banned in China, the techniques described in this paper give field biologists a new means to identify and track pandas in the wild.
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Hagey, L., MacDonald, E. Chemical Cues Identify Gender and Individuality in Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). J Chem Ecol 29, 1479–1488 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1024225806263
- Giant panda
- scent mark
- scent communication
- mass spectrometry
- individual identity
- urine analysis
- short chain fatty acids