Chemical Composition of Pheromones

A wide variety of pheromone substances have been found, few, however, from small mammals. Working on the anal gland secretion of the red fox, Albone and Fox (1971) identified twelve volatile substances, including a base and a series of carboxylic acids (C2 to C6). Muller and Lamperle (1964) indicated twelve compounds in the orbital gland secretion of male red deer and seven compounds in the anal gland secretion of male alsatian dogs.

Brownlee et al. (1969) isolated the main component of the tarsal gland secretion of Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque) and identified it to be cis- 4-hydroxydodec-6-enoic acid lactone. Recently, Goodrich and Mykytowycz (1972) examined the compounds produced by various skin glands in the rabbit (0ryct0lagus cuniculus L.).

This is a particularly useful pheromone study since it combines the results of gas chromatography, thin layer chromatography and electrophoresis on agar and polyacrylamide gels. Anal and chin glands, sebum from the inguinal pouches, and whole inguinal gland homogenates were examined. The chin glands produce primarily proteins and carbohydrates and the concentration of them is far higher in males than it is in females. The inguinal gland is composed primarily of lipids, with much monoglyceride, diglyceride and triglyceride material present. Goodrich and Mykytowycz point out that sex differences and individual differences also occur, although they give no specific pheromone information of the latter according to

Chemical Composition of Male Pheromones

As yet, few workers have examined the chemical composition of pheromone odors produced by rodents. Lederer (1950) pointed out that castoreum from the beaver (Castor fiber L.) contained no less than 45 different substances. Stevens and Erickson (1942) identified the main components of the musk from the musk-rat (Ondatra zibethicus (L.) as cyclopentadecanol and cycloheptadecanol and their correspond- ing ketones. While these studies may prove a useful basis of knowledge, it is a matter of considerable regret that no sound work has been conducted on the odors less attractive to the perfume industry, for it is in rats, mice and related species that most of the observations have been made of pheromone behavior involving odors. Work is currently in progress on the composition of the odors produced by the flank organs of the water vole (Arvicola terrestris) and it would appear that not only are the odors of extreme complexity, but that the most complex odors are found in samples from male specimens (Stoddart, unpublished).

Behavioral, physiological and developmental studies

The literature on small mammals contains many records of specific patterns of behavior associated with the laying of scent gland secretions. Before describing the main patterns, it would be useful for us to reflect on the social roles of male and female mammals. Whatever else he may do, the principal role of the male is to compete amongst his fellows for a mate, since theoretically just one individual male of any species is probably capable of producing sufficient sex pheromone and es to fertilize all the females of his species. In this way his role is the chief controlling factor in population regulation (Wynne-Edwards 1962). The social role of the female is not primarily to compete, but to live a more self-centered life than her mate and to rear young according to

Within the animal kingdom there are a myriad examples of the male being ‘adorned’ in some way such that intraspecific competition can reach its zenith of intensity prior to mating. The occurrence of visual adornments is quite acceptable to us — manes, tusks, horns and the like — but the occurrence of olfactory adorn- ments is less so. It is to be hoped that increasing familiarity with this idea will bring about a change. The fact that pheromone odor producing organs are found in females of some species as well as males suggests that odor is not produced exclusively for male.


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