Title:  Histological examination of the tarsal organ: seasonal and sexual differences.
Author(s): Hoffman, D. M., S. Odend'hal, K. V. Miller and R. L. Marchinton.
Year: 1991
Abstract: We morphologically and histologically examined the tarsal organs from 110 white-tailed deer collected between 22 September 1988 and 2 May 1989 to determine differences related to sex, age, and season of the year. Color and moisture of the tarsal hair tuft were rated subjectively on a linear scale. Males had significantly (P < 0.05) darker and moister tarsal tufts than females. During the reproductive period, mature males had significantly (P < 0.05) darker stained tufts than young males and females of all ages. Computer assisted analysis was used to access area density (an index of secretory activity) of sebaceous glands in the skin underlying the tarsal tuft. Sebaceous gland area density values did not differ between seasons or sexes, or among age classes (P > 0.05). We suggest that the sebaceous glands associated with the tarsal tufts function primarily as a source of sebaceous material for holding selected urinary constituents. Although some communicative odors may arise from these sebaceous secretions, it is likely that the primary communicative medium on the tarsal gland is urine (andlor its decompositional products) deposited on the gland during rub-urination.

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