Gas-chromatographic analyses of the subcaudal gland secretion of the European badger (Meles meles) part II: time-related variation in the individual-specific composition.
Buesching CD., Waterhouse JS., Macdonald DW.
Individuality in body odors has been described in a variety of species, but studies on time-related variation in individual scent are scarce. Here, we use GC-MS to investigate how chemical composition of subcaudal gland secretions of European badgers (Meles meles) varies over days, seasons, and from year to year, and how secretions change with the length of time for which they are exposed to the environment. Samples were divided into subsamples--one was frozen immediately and the remaining ones frozen after 2, 6, 12, 24, and 48 hr, respectively--and many individual-specific characteristics of the scent-profiles remained stable over time. However, two components were negatively correlated with time, thus providing the possibility to determine the age of scent marks. The low variation found in scent profiles of samples collected from the same individual three days apart showed that the individual-specific scent is a true characteristic of the respective badger, and that trapping and subsequent sampling have little effect on the composition of subcaudal gland secretions. Long-term variation (i.e., over one year) in individual subcaudal scent profiles is not continuous, but periods of relative stability are followed by periods of rapid change, that can be related to badger biology. Annual variation between samples collected from the same individuals in winter 1998 and winter 1999. and in spring 1998 and spring 1999 was lower than seasonal variation. Therefore, the results of this study indicate the potential of an individual-specific scent signature in the subcaudal gland secretions of badgers evidencing that individual recognition is of high importance in this species.