Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Science

Major

Biology

Date of Defense

8-12-2009

Graduate Advisor

Zuleyma Tang-Martinez, Ph.D.

Committee

Zuleyma Tang-Martinez

George Taylor

Stan Braude (Washington University)

Abstract

This study had three objectives: 1) to characterize the patterns of scent-marking in captive raccoons; 2) to determine if wild-trapped raccoons can discriminate individual differences in the odors of urine, feces or anal sac secretions; 3) to analyze the variation in chemical composition of urine samples among individuals. I observed five raccoons living in a semi-natural enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska and recorded all behaviors related to scent-marking. For the studies on individual differences and discrimination through odors, I used the familiarization-discrimination technique with raccoons housed in conditions that approximated their natural environment. In the chemical studies, I used gas chromatography to compare qualitative and quantitative differences among individual urine samples. In the zoo study, anogenital rubs were the main form of scent-marking used by raccoons and variation in scent-marking behavior was based on gender but not activity level or dominance. In the odor tests with wild raccoons, the subjects were able to discriminate individual differences between conspecifics in the odors of urine but not feces or anal sac secretions. Chemical analyses showed raccoon urine contains sufficient variability among individuals for individual discrimination. Thus, these data strongly support the hypothesis that raccoons use urine for individual recognition particularly among members of social groups.

Share

COinS