Skunk spray produced in the anal glands of the striped skunk can have extremely adverse effects on potential predators, who then learn to avoid provoking these animals in the future. Despite this spray being an extremely effective predator deterrent, few studies have assessed the molecular constituents found within striped skunk spray, and no studies have attempted to assess how important ecological factors could influence the strength of the spray. The goal of this study was to assess the honesty of striped skunk pelage and the influence of predation risk and life history on skunk musk by measuring the variation in the amounts of the major noxious chemicals of skunk spray, using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). A total of fifty-eight anal secretion samples and dorsal stripe images were collected from striped skunks from two separate locations differing in mammalian and avian predation risk. Overall, the findings of this study support the hypothesis that striped skunk spray and pelage whiteness varies more in areas with greater risk of predation by mammals, and anal secretion noxiousness is influenced by the skunk’s weight, sex, and reproductive state. The aposematic coloration exhibited by skunks as well as the defensive spray mechanism is largely influenced and selectively maintained by mammalian predation pressures.
|Commitee:||Carter, Ashley, Wood, William F.|
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||MAI 57/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Antipredator defense, Aposematism, Chemical ecology, Striped skunk|
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