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Chemical Composition of Odorous Secretions in the Tasmanian Short-Beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus setosus)


Harris, RL and Davies, NW and Nicol, SC, Chemical Composition of Odorous Secretions in the Tasmanian Short-Beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus setosus), Chemical Senses, 37, (9) pp. 819-836. ISSN 0379-864X (2012) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2012 The Author

DOI: doi:10.1093/chemse/bjs066


The short-beaked echidna is believed to use olfactory cues from a cloacal scent gland to attract and locate mates during the breeding season. We investigated the chemical composition of echidna secretions, including cloacal swabs and solid, "waxy" exudates from the cloaca and spurs. Scent samples from 37 individuals were collected over a 1-year period and analyzed using a range of different analytical techniques. A total of 186 compounds were identified, including volatile carboxylic acids, aldehydes, ketones, fatty acids, methyl esters, ethyl esters, terpenes, nitrogen- and sulphur-containing compounds, alcohols, and aromatics. Long chain and very long chain monounsaturated fatty acids, sterols, and sterol esters were identified as the major constituents of solid exudates, some of which have not previously been described from any animal skin gland. There was a high degree of composition overlap between male and female cloaca swabs; however, there is significant variation, which could mediate echidna mating behavior. Many of the volatile and nonvolatile chemicals detected are used for communication in other species, suggesting that chemical signals have important and diverse functions in echidna social interactions.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:chemical communication, ethyl ester, fatty acid, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), monotreme, echidna, sterol ester
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Zoology
Research Field:Animal cell and molecular biology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Fresh, ground and surface water systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of freshwater ecosystems
UTAS Author:Harris, RL (Miss Rachel Harris)
UTAS Author:Davies, NW (Associate Professor Noel Davies)
UTAS Author:Nicol, SC (Associate Professor Stewart Nicol)
ID Code:79026
Year Published:2012
Web of Science® Times Cited:16
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2012-08-14
Last Modified:2013-04-16
Downloads:4 View Download Statistics

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