The uropygial gland of birds produces secretions that are important in maintaining the health and structural integrity of feathers. Non-volatile components of uropygial secretions are believed to serve a number of functions including waterproofing and conditioning the feathers. Volatile components have been characterized in fewer species, but are particularly interesting because of their potential importance in olfactory interactions within and across species. We used solid-phase microextraction headspace sampling with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to detect and identify volatiles in uropygial secretions of gray catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), a North American migratory bird. We consistently detected the following carboxylic acids: acetic, propanoic, 2-methylpropanoic, butanoic, and 3-methylbutanoic. We tested for the effect of lengthened photoperiod and/or exogenous testosterone on volatile signal strength and found a negative effect of lengthened photoperiod on the signal strength of propanoic, 2-methylpropanoic, and butanoic acids, suggesting a trade-off between their production and heightened night-time activity associated with lengthened photoperiod. Signal strength of propanoic and 2-methylpropanoic acids was lower in birds treated with exogenous testosterone than in birds treated with placebos. Sex did not affect signal strength of any of the volatile compounds.
Whelan, Rebecca J., Tera C. Levin, Jennifer C. Owen, and Mary C. Garvin. 2010. "Short-chain carboxylic acids from gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) uropygial secretions vary with testosterone levels and photoperiod." Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part B 156(3): 183-188.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part B
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Record for R. Whelan. Additional record for M. Garvin: https://digitalcommons.oberlin.edu/faculty_schol/3700/
Chemical ecology, Carboxylic acids, Dumetella carolinensis, Gas chromatographymass spectrometry, Gray catbird, Solid-phase microextraction, Static headspace sampling, Uropygial gland, Volatile organic compounds