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Mammalian Biology

, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 147–156 | Cite as

Variations in colour and volume of the subcaudal gland secretion of badgers (Meles meles) in relation to sex, season and individual-specific parameters

  • Christina D. ChristinaEmail author
  • Christina C. Buesching
  • C. Newman
  • D. W. Macdonald
Original investigation

Abstract

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 meles). 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 intra-group communication signal in the vicinity of the sett.

Key words

Meles meles Mustelidae scent-marking secretion communication 

Unterschiede in Farbe und Volumen von Subcaudaldrüsensekreten bei Dachsen (Meles meles) in Abhängigkeit von Geschlecht, Jahreszeit und individual-spezifischen Parametern

Zusammenfassung

Die Produktion von Sekreten unterliegt meist dem biologischen Zustand der Tiere. In dieser Studie untersuchen wir, welche endogenen Parameter die Aktivität des subcaudalen Drüsengewebes von europäischen Dachsen (Meles meles) beinflussen. Die großen Subcaudaldrüsen produzieren ein lipidreiches Sekret, mit welchem Dachse sehr häufig markieren. Frühere Untersuchungen deuteten daraufhin, daß der Geruch dieser Subcaudaldrüsensekrete individual-spezifisch ist und auch Informationen über Gruppenzugehörigkeit, jedoch nicht über individual-spezifische Parameter (z. B. Geschlecht, Alter, Zustand etc.) beinhaltet. In der vorliegenden Studie wurden Farbe und Volumen von 975 Sekretproben untersucht, und die auftretenden Unterschiede im Zusammenhang zu Jahreszeit, Geschlecht, Reproduktionszustand, Alter, Körperlänge und Zustand der Dachse analysiert. Die Auswertung zeigt eine starke Saisonalität, signifikante Geschlechtsunterschiede in Farbe und Volumen der Sekrete, die während des ganzen Jahres bestehen, und einen starken Einfluß von individual-spezifischen Parametern auf die Merkmale der Drüsensekrete. Daher folgern wir, daß die Subkaudal-drüsensekrete von Dachsen mehr Informationen über das markierende Individuum beinhalten, als zuvor angenommen. Wir schlagen vor, daß das Markieren mit subcaudalen Drüsensekreten wahrscheinlich zwei verschiedene Funktionen hat: zum einen dient das Markieren entlang der Peripherie des Territoriums wahrscheinlich dazu, Nicht-Gruppenmitgliedern die Besetzung des Gebietes anzuzeigen, zum anderen dient das Markieren in der Nähe des Baues wahrscheinlich als gruppeninternes Kommunikationssignal.

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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina D. Christina
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christina C. Buesching
    • 1
  • C. Newman
    • 1
  • D. W. Macdonald
    • 1
  1. 1.Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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