3 years ago

Odour of King Penguin feathers analysed using direct thermal desorption discriminates between individuals but not sexes

Carsten T. Müller, Marianne Gabirot, Bruno Buatois, Francesco Bonadonna
The role and use of olfactory cues by penguins is largely under-investigated, with only a few studies suggesting that odours are involved in prey detection, orientation and for interspecific communication. This also applies to King Penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus where little is known about their chemoreception abilities and, subsequently, the role of odours in their behavioural ecology. Here, we investigated the chemical composition of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from feathers of King Penguins in the Kerguelen Archipelago and their potential to carry information on identity and sex. We analysed VOCs using direct thermal desorption, a novel approach for extracting volatile compounds directly from solid matrices. We were only able to test at desorption temperatures of 70 and 100 °C to optimize conditions for VOC analysis. We found a profile of 26 VOCs present in most individuals, which varied significantly between individuals but not between sexes. Results suggested that VOCs could possibly be used by King Penguins to locate the colony and recognize individuals, if similar VOCs are also present at ambient conditions. Further studies and behavioural experiments are encouraged to explore olfactory-based communication in this species.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12544

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