Sulfur Compounds in Mustelids

  • Kenneth K. Andersen
  • David T. Bernstein


Secondary chemicals, especially alkaloids and terpenes isolated from plants, have interested chemists for many decades, yet only comparatively recently have their important roles in ecology been realized. They are no longer incorrectly considered to be just metabolic by-products.1 Investigations of secondary compounds produced by mammals have a long history, but are not numerous in comparison to the studies of substances isolated from plants or even insects. Early studies on mammalian secretions were stimulated primarily by commercial concern with perfumes, whereas current research is motivated mostly by the great interest in chemical ecology, in particular by the influence these secretions acting as chemical signals have on animal behavior. Recent advances in the methodology of isolation and identification of small quantities of low molecular weight volatile compounds coincide with this growth of interest and have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of mammalian secondary chemicals which have been identified. For the most part, mammalian secondary compounds are volatile and received by olfaction.2 Since the odors of low molecular weight divalent sulfur compounds are usually very intense and distinct to humans, and apparently to other mammals as well, it is not surprising that such compounds, many examples of which are found in plants, are also represented in mammalian secretions.3,4 Compound 1 was found in the vaginal secretion of the golden hamster5, 2 in the anal scent gland of the striped hyena6, and 3 and 4 in red fox urine.7


Sulfur Compound Vaginal Secretion Anal Gland Mustela Vison Striped Skunk 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth K. Andersen
    • 1
  • David T. Bernstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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