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Activity of scent glands is often related to an animal's biological status. Here we investigate how endogenous parameters influence activity of the subcaudal gland tissue in European badgers (Meles meter). The large subcaudal glands produce a lipid-rich secretion which badgers frequently use for scent-marking. Earlier studies suggest that the smell of this subcaudal secretion is individual-specific and encodes information about group membership, but does not contain further information about individual-specific parameters (sex, age, body condition etc.). In this study the colour and volume of 975 subcaudal secretion samples collected between January 1996 and January 1999 were investigated and analysed in relation to sex, endocrinological and reproductive status, age, head body length and body condition of the badgers, and seasonality. The analyses show a distinct seasonal pattern, a significant sex difference in the secretion's colour and volume, apparent throughout the year, and a strong influence of individual-specific parameters on the characteristics of the secretion. Thus, we conclude that the subcaudal secretion of the European badger could communicate more information about the marking individual than previously assumed. We propose that the function of subcaudal scent-marking is likely to be two-fold, to provide information about territory occupancy to non-group members at the periphery of territories and to act as an intragroup communication signal in the vicinity of the sett.

Original publication




Journal article


Mammalian Biology

Publication Date





147 - 156