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Pheromones found in Rabbits

Pheromones are found in rabbit litters are deposited in specially dug breeding chambers which, prior to parturition are lined with grass which is usually dry, and fur which the doe plucks from her bel...

Pheromones are found in rabbit litters are deposited in specially dug breeding chambers which, prior to parturition are lined with grass which is usually dry, and fur which the doe plucks from her belly, chest and anks. Presumably this fur carries the scent of the female pheromones, particularly the inguinal scent, with which the kittens become familiar very early in their lives.

The mother also deposits a few pheromones in the nest. Pheromone experiments have shown that kittens learn to recognize the anal odor of the mother and at an early age display more attraction towards it than to any other natural rabbit odor (Mykytowycz and Ward 1971).

A rabbit mother suckles her nestlings very briey once per day for the first three weeks. Outside the feeding time the entrance to the breeding chamber is blocked by the female with a soil plug which is packed down with the forefeet and nose. On the soil plug the female deposits a few fecal pellets and a small quantity of pheromones according to

In the course of prolonged pheromone studies of rabbit populations during which regular inspections of warrens were carried out, it was found that usually burrows containing young kittens were not entered by other members of the group. Interference by conspecics may take place, however, when population pressures rise and territoriality crumbles.

In situations when social stress increases, under both pheromonal experimental and natural conditions, young kittens are frequently killed by other females. Although marking is obviously an effective method of protection it does not offer complete security to the kittens and the physical presence of the mothers may be very important in certain situations.

Indeed it has been seen repeatedly that mothers excluded other rabbits from the vicinity of the nest and feeding grounds of their young pheromones (Mykytowycz 1959).

Olfactory communication between nestling albino rats and their mothers has been reported. The lactating females start to emit a pheromone at about 14 days post-partum and cease to produce it at about 27 days, which coincides with the loss of responsiveness of the young ones towards it.

The existence of the maternal pheromone seems to assure the reunion of the progeny with their mothers at the time when they are still dependent and yet display mobility (Leon and Moltz 1972). The pheromone seems to be contained in the feces (Leon, personal communication).

They leave traces, or tracks, which have denite spatial delineations that can be recognized visually. For example, hippo paths become furrows 60 cm wide with a typical crest in the center; bison 30 cm and mice 3 cm wide (Walther 1967). On the other hand paths may be recognized olfactorily. Wildebeest in Masailand leave a characteristic odor on the ground from interdigital glands which allow not only conspecifics, but also man to track their pheromone movements (Talbot and Talbot 1963).

The marking of paths can, however, be much more complex and the house mouse provides a good example. Along its paths the mouse establishes urinating ‘posts’, originating on a fecal pellet, and with the accumulation of dust and debris cemented by urine these ‘posts’ reach considerable dimensions. Their distribution pattern suggests some symmetry; in one instance the distances between ‘posts’ were measured and found to be approximately 5 cm (Welch 1953). Rats establish similar ‘posts’ along their paths.

Individuals of both sexes rub their urogenital regions on the ‘posts’ leaving clearly recognizable traces of mucus in addition to pheromones. This results in the mixing of secretions, desquamated skin, hairs and sebum from glands located at the base of the tail. This mixture of protein, mucin and fatty acidsFree Reprint Articles, undergoes oxidation and bacterial decomposition.

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Alexander P is a blogger that studies pheromones.

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