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Oberlin College

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Australia: Natural and Cultural Ecology


Chemosignaling – passing information by means of chemical compounds that can be detected by members of the same species – is a very important form of communication for most mammals. Flying fox males have odiferous marking secretions on their neck-ruffs that include a combination of secretion from the neck gland and from the urogenital tract; males use this substance to establish territory, especially during the mating season. The secretions of flying fox males from three Australian species – spectacled (Pteropus conspicillatus), grey-headed (P. poliocephalus), and black (P. alecto) – were compared using high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC); two spectacled females were also examined to compare secretion content without the addition of urogenital components, as female neck-ruff secretions originate solely from the neck glands. Male secretions showed five to six major components, and each species demonstrated a unique chemical profile. Further, female secretions revealed a greater volume of components than expected, though male secretions contained more major components that were generally at greater concentrations. It was found that spectacled, grey-headed, and black flying fox secretions had many shared components, which may be related to the ability of black flying foxes to interbreed with the other two species. Further examination is needed to determine the component identities, though this study hypothesizes them to be alcohols, esters, hydrocarbons, or ketones based on these compounds’ unique odors and common abundance in mammalian secretions.


Animal Sciences | Biology


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