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In many species, chemical signals are important in the context of intraspecific communication. European badgers (Meles meles) use the secretion of their subcaudal gland to mark both the environment and conspecifics. In this paper, we investigated the chemical composition of subcaudal gland secretions and how it varies among individuals according to group membership, season, sex, age, body condition, and reproductive status. We analyzed 66 samples by gas chromatography using a mass-spectrometer as detector. We found 110 different components, of which 21 were present in every profile. The chemical composition of the secretions proved to be highly individual-specific, but no single peak was found to be typical for one of the investigated categories (season, sex, etc.). Analyses of the relative area (% area) that every peak contributed to the overall profile area showed that, in general, group members have more similar profiles than do badgers from different groups. Composition varied over seasons and between sexes and was influenced by age, body condition, and reproductive status. We, therefore, conclude that the secretion not only encodes group membership and individuality as previously assumed, but might also convey information about fitness-related parameters.

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Chem Ecol

Publication Date

01/2002

Volume

28

Pages

41 - 56

Keywords

Animals, Carnivora, Female, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, Male, Pregnancy, Scent Glands, Seasons, Sexual Behavior, Animal