Chemical communication : chemical characterization of volatile constituents of urine of the southern African cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus jubatus, using headspace sampling and GC-MS

Visser, Runine (Runine Cecile) (2002-12)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, sometimes referred to as "the greyhound of the cats", is probably the most elegant member of the cat family. Formerly widespread in southern Africa it is now threatened with extinction. It occurs in open savanna and light woodland, but also hilly country on occasion. The cheetah is a predator that can reach speeds of more then 110 km/h in short bursts. With a mass of between only 40 to 60 kg, it is not very powerful and cannot defend itself very effectively against carnivores such as the lion and hyaena, for example. This might be the reason why, in order not to advertise its presence, the urine of this animal is practically odourless. In turn, this might explain why no research has so far been devoted to the urine of this animal. In contrast extensive work has been done on the chemical characterisation of the urine of many other carnivores, notably the lion. Extraction of the urine with dichloromethane gave too little material for GC-MS. SPME sampling of the urine itself gave insufficient sample enrichment. Better results were obtained when an SPME-type of headspace sampling, using a larger mass of polydimethylsiloxane, was employed although many of the constituents of the urine could still barely be detected. The compounds identified include a large number of ketones, aldehydes, cyclic and acyclic ethers, carboxylic acids, amides two sulphur compounds in barely detectable quantities, and elemental sulphur. Perhaps the most remarkable result of this thesis is that it was found that the urine of the cheetah, although it is a carnivore, does not contain several sulphur compounds in relatively high concentrations. However, it does contain elemental sulphur. Perhaps a mechanism exists by which the cheetah can convert strongly odorous sulphur containing compounds into the less strongly smelling sulphur.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die jagluiperd, Acinonyx jubatus, 'n roofdier wat tydens 'n jagtog vir kort tye snelhede van meer as 110 km/h kan bereik, is waarskynlik die elegantste lid van die katfamilie. Met sy vaartbelynde liggaam weeg die dier egter slegs tussen 40 en 60 kg kan hy homself nie doeltreffend teen groter roofdiere verdedig nie. Chemiese verbindings, sogenaamde feromone, wat onder andere in die uriene uitgeskei word, word dikwels deur diere gebruik vir gebiedsafbakening en om met ander lede van die spesie te kommunikeer. Die uriene van die jadluiperd is egter feitlik reukloos. Tot dusver is die chemiese samestelling van die uriene van die jagluiperd nog nie ondersoek nie. Ekstraksie van die uriene met dichlorometaan het te min materiaal vir gaschromatografies-massaspektrometriese analise opgelewer, maar bevredigende resultate is verkry deur van 'n verbeterde monsternemingsmetode gebruik te maak. 'n Groot aantal organiese verbindings en twee swawelbevattende verbindings in skaars waarneembare hoeveelhede is in die uriene geïdentifiseer. Daar is egter 'n aansienlike hoeveelheid van die element swawel is in die uriene gevind. Laasgenoemde ontdekking, is die mees verbasende resultaat van hierdie navorsing. Die uitskeiding van swawel in uriene is, sover bekend, eenmalig in die soogdierwêreld. Dit is moontlik dat die jagluiperd oor 'n meganisme beskik om swawelverbindings wat baie sterk ruik om te sit na swawel wat nie so sterk ruik nie. Hierdie meganisme sal die dier se kanse op oorlewing verbeter deur van die swawelbevattende verbindings in sy dieet ontslae te raak sonder om sy teenwoordigheid in die omgewing te adverteer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52730
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