THE ROLE OF THE TARSAL GLANDS IN THE OLFACTORY COMMUNICATION OF THE ONTARIO MOOSE - A PRELIMINARY REPORT
From behavioural studies of moose and elk-hounds, the authors have concluded that the tarsal gland secretion (TGS) is the primary olfactory signal in searching out con-specifics. For this study TGS alcoholic extracts of 49 males and 49 females collected between October and December were analyzed by gas chromatography - mass spectroscopy. In 28 males (57%) and 17 females (34.7%) o-cresol was found as the major volatile component usually being accompanied by small amounts of higher homologs. The o-cresol content varied with sex, age and date from o-170% of the C16-ethylester used as standard. Glands containing o-cresol were found in females of the same area and time period, while the males having these “active” glands were scattered in time and location. This led to the hypothesis that its presence could correlate with sexual activity in both genders. However, samples containing o-cresol did not elicit any sexual response from moose. This meant that no sexual pheromone was present in TGS. Our hypothesis is that o-cresol needs some synergetics and acts only as a conspicuous informer attracting the animal’s attention and leading it to other more definitive olfactory cues which are being investigated. This study has shown that the correct answer to this problem will need investigation under simulated conditions in order to determine how the TG responds to sex hormone levels and to what degree its spectrum is contained by urine.
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