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Brown bears possess anal sacs and secretions may code for sex

Authors

  • F. Rosell,

    1. Department of Environmental and Health Studies, Faculty of Art and Sciences, Telemark University College, Telemark, Norway
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  • S. M. Jojola,

    1. Department of Environmental and Health Studies, Faculty of Art and Sciences, Telemark University College, Telemark, Norway
    2. Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway
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  • K. Ingdal,

    1. Department of Environmental and Health Studies, Faculty of Art and Sciences, Telemark University College, Telemark, Norway
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  • B. A. Lassen,

    1. Department of Environmental and Health Studies, Faculty of Art and Sciences, Telemark University College, Telemark, Norway
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  • J. E. Swenson,

    1. Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway
    2. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim, Norway
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  • J. M. Arnemo,

    1. Faculty of Forestry and Wildlife Management, Hedmark University College, Elverum, Norway
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  • A. Zedrosser

    1. Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway
    2. Institute of Wildlife Biology and Game Management, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria
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  • Editor: Günther Zupanc

Correspondence
Frank Rosell, Department of Environmental and Health Studies, Faculty of Art and Sciences, Telemark University College, NO-3800 Bø, Telemark, Norway. Tel: +47 35 952 762; Fax: +47 35 952 703
Email: frank.rosell@hit.no

Abstract

Olfactory communication occurs in carnivores and many scent-mark with anal gland secretions (AGS), which contain a variety of information including sex-related cues. Currently, there is disagreement about whether bear species, other than the giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca, possess anal glands or anal sacs. We documented anal sacs in brown bears Ursus arctos and analyzed AGS from 17 free-ranging, sexually mature individuals using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. We hypothesized that brown bear AGS codes for sex, as it does in giant pandas, and predicted that AGS shows sex differences in gas chromatogram (GC) profiles, number of compounds, the digital and analog coding of chemical compounds, and color. We found 90 different compounds. Our results support the predictions that male and female AGS differs in GC, analog coding and possibly color. However, we found no significant difference between sexes in number of detected compounds or in the digital coding. Our results confirm that brown bears possess anal sacs, that secretions likely relay information about sex, and suggest other chemical information critical to the bears' social system is encoded in the AGS.

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