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Techniques & Tools Mass Spectrometry, Gas Chromatography

Image of the Month

Love at First Glands

Think you’ve had a rough week? At least you haven’t had to swab the anal glands of a meerkat, like one group of researchers (1).

To identify the origins of the animals’ distinctive odor, the team used GC-MS to analyze the smelly “paste” that acts as their calling card to friends, rivals and potential mates. They identified volatile compounds in the glandular secretions and compared them with samples from the anal pouches of the meerkats, determining that each animal’s delicately balanced “bouquet” is a result of shared bacteria – rather than shared genes – a finding that’s likely to be important for social interaction.

Reference 1. S Leclaire et al., “Social odours covary with bacterial community in the anal secretions of wild meerkats”, Scientific Reports, 7 (2017). PMID: PMC5468246  Credit: Lydia Greene, Duke University

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About the Author
Joanna Cummings

A former library manager and storyteller, I have wanted to write for magazines since I was six years old, when I used to make my own out of foolscap paper and sellotape and distribute them to my family. Since getting my MSc in Publishing, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and content creator for both digital and print, writing on subjects such as fashion, food, tourism, photography – and the history of Roman toilets. Now I can be found working on The Analytical Scientist, finding the ‘human angle’ to cutting-edge science stories.

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