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A non‐invasive method for sampling the body odour of mammals


Weiss, Brigitte; Marcillo, Andrea; Manser, Marta; Holland, Ruben; Birkemeyer, Claudia; Widdig, Anja (2018). A non‐invasive method for sampling the body odour of mammals. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 9(2):420-429.

Abstract

Olfaction is a central aspect of mammalian communication, providing information about individual attributes such as identity, sex, group membership or genetic quality. Yet, the chemical underpinnings of olfactory cues remain little understood, one of the reasons being the difficulty in obtaining high quality samples for chemical analysis.
In this study, we adjusted and evaluated the use of thermal desorption (TD) tubes, commonly used in plant metabolomic and environmental studies, for non‐invasive sampling of mammalian body odour. We obtained chemical profiles of meerkat (Suricata suricatta) body odour samples, using TD tubes analysed with gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.
TD tubes captured a wide range of volatile and semi‐volatile organic compounds, including compounds likely originating from the target animals. Adjustment of sampling parameters (distance, volume, flow rate, interruption of sampling) to increase the feasibility for a non‐invasive application yielded samples of adequate quality. However, to minimize the variability between samples, sampling parameters should be kept constant and samples should be collected when no conspecifics are close‐by.
The method was sensitive enough to pick up population differences in the chemical profiles of two captive groups of meerkats, demonstrating its applicability to biological questions. With sufficiently habituated animals, the method is applicable non‐invasively, allowing short‐ and long‐term studies on a wide range of questions, including e.g. chemical signatures of kinship, diet, individual health or reproductive state.

Abstract

Olfaction is a central aspect of mammalian communication, providing information about individual attributes such as identity, sex, group membership or genetic quality. Yet, the chemical underpinnings of olfactory cues remain little understood, one of the reasons being the difficulty in obtaining high quality samples for chemical analysis.
In this study, we adjusted and evaluated the use of thermal desorption (TD) tubes, commonly used in plant metabolomic and environmental studies, for non‐invasive sampling of mammalian body odour. We obtained chemical profiles of meerkat (Suricata suricatta) body odour samples, using TD tubes analysed with gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.
TD tubes captured a wide range of volatile and semi‐volatile organic compounds, including compounds likely originating from the target animals. Adjustment of sampling parameters (distance, volume, flow rate, interruption of sampling) to increase the feasibility for a non‐invasive application yielded samples of adequate quality. However, to minimize the variability between samples, sampling parameters should be kept constant and samples should be collected when no conspecifics are close‐by.
The method was sensitive enough to pick up population differences in the chemical profiles of two captive groups of meerkats, demonstrating its applicability to biological questions. With sufficiently habituated animals, the method is applicable non‐invasively, allowing short‐ and long‐term studies on a wide range of questions, including e.g. chemical signatures of kinship, diet, individual health or reproductive state.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:February 2018
Deposited On:08 Mar 2019 08:42
Last Modified:13 Oct 2019 05:56
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:2041-210X
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12888
Project Information:
  • : FunderEFRE
  • : Grant ID100195810
  • : Project Title

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