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Chem Senses. 2005 Nov;30(9):727-37. Epub 2005 Oct 12.

Putative chemosignals of the ferret (Mustela furo) associated with individual and gender recognition.

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Institute for Pheromone Research and Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, 800 East Kirkwood Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Quantitative stir bar sorptive extraction methods, both in the aqueous and headspace modes, followed by thermal desorption gas chromatography-mass spectrometry were used to investigate individual variations in the volatile components of male and female ferret (Mustela furo) urine. The urinary profiles were further compared with volatile profiles of anal gland secretions of breeding male and female ferrets. Thirty volatile compounds were quantified in male and female urine. Among them, 2-methylquinoline was unique to male urine. Four ketones (4-heptanone, 2-heptanone, o-aminoacetophenone, and a dimethoxyacetophenone) and several nitrogen compounds (e.g., 2,5-dimethylpyrazine, quinoline, 4-methylquinazoline) and low levels of three unidentified nonsulfur compounds were significantly more abundant in males than in females. Quantitative comparison of 30 volatile urinary compounds showed several statistically significant differences between the sexes and individuals of the same sex. These findings suggest that ferrets may use urine marking for sex and individual recognitions. Ten of the 26 compounds identified in anal gland secretions from females and males were also found in urine. However, most of the major compounds (thietanes, dithiolanes, and indole) in anal glands were not present in urine. This suggests that urine may convey specific signals that differ from those of anal glands. Additionally, 10 volatiles (two aldehydes, five ketones, benzothiazole, 2-methylquinoline, and 4-methylquinazoline), not previously identified, were found in ferret anal gland secretions. Among the new compounds, o-aminoacetophenone was found only in males, while only traces of this compound were found in females. Similar results were previously obtained in anal glands of three other Mustela species. These findings provide new information about the constituents of urine and volatile components of anal gland secretions in ferrets.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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