Pheromonal activity of single castoreum constituents in beaver, Castor canadensis

Author(s): Muller-Schwarze D, Houlihan PW


Behavioral activity of single components of beaver castoreum was demonstrated for the first time. In four experiments samples were presented to free-ranging beaver in their family territories. First, responses to whole castoreum and anal gland secretion (AGS) from males and females were tested. Second, 24 compounds, known to be constituents of beaver castoreum, were individually screened for activity. Four of these consistently released immediate responses during the observation periods. These are the phenols 4-ethylphenol and 1,2-dihydroxybenzene and the ketones acetophenone and 3-hydroxyacetophenone. In the most complete responses, the beaver sniffed from the water, were attracted to the odor, swam toward its source, went on land, and then approached, sniffed, pawed, and scent-marked the artificial scent mound. 4-Ethoxyphenol, a compound not yet found in castoreum, also released these responses. Five additional compounds resulted in a few delayed visits to the samples during the night following the observations, as evidenced by destroyed scent mounds. These are 4-methyl-1,2-dihydroxybenzene, 4-methoxyacetophenone, 5-methoxysalicylic acid, salicylaldehyde, and 3-hydroxybenzoic acid. Third, mixtures of 24 and six compounds were tested. Responses to these mixtures could be as strong as those to whole castoreum. Fourth, the four regularly active compounds were tested in two additional beaver populations and proved to be active there, too. The response was strongest in the densest beaver population.

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