Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) use chemical cues to determine identity, gender, and sexual receptivity of conspecifics. We hypothesized that volatile chemical profiles of free-ranging giant pandas are detectable in air. Therefore, we aimed to identify volatile compounds produced by free-ranging giant pandas residing in the Wolong Nature Reserve (Sichuan, China) through field air analysis/solid phase microextraction/gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (FAA/SPME/GCMS). From 28 June to 12 July 2017, 3 SPME fibers were secured to trees that appeared to have previous marking activity. Trail cameras confirmed that a single giant panda performed scent-marking behavior at one sampling location. The abundance of 7 compounds were elevated in samples collected from the tree visited by the giant panda compared with controls. Three of these compounds (Ethane, 1,1-dinitro-; Octane, 4-ethyl-; 2(1H)-Pyridinethione, 3-ethoxy-6-methyl-) were unique to the giant panda visit. Novel methods to detect giant pandas would benefit conservation efforts. We suggest our method also may be used to study chemical communication in other bear species.
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Vol. 29 • No. 2