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Secretions repel insects, bacteria: giraffe


Giraffe / Original upl.. / LicenseGFDL - Gnu Free Document License

The skin and hair of giraffes may repel ticks, mosquitoes and bacteria via secreted chemical compounds, particularly indole, skatole, and p-cresol.

"…two alkaloids, indole and 3-methylindole (skatole), are primarily responsible for the scent of the giraffe…Indole occurs naturally in the floral scent of jasmine, orange blossom and other flowers (Poucher, 1974). Indole and 3-methylindole have an intense faecal odour at high concentrations that becomes pleasant in very dilute solutions — both are used in perfumery (Poucher, 1974)…Many of these compounds may function as antimicrobial agents…The growth of two ubiquitous species of skin bacteria is inhibited by some of the giraffe-derived compounds…Another possible function of these compounds may be to repel ectoparasitic arthropods. Both indole and skatole were judged by Rudolfs (1922, 1930) to repel wildcaught mosquitoes (Aedes spp.) from the US, but quantitative results are needed to affirm this. A tick found in areas inhabited by giraffes, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, is repelled by p-cresol, one of the giraffe skin compounds…" (Wood and Weldon 2003:915-916)
About the inspiring organism
Med_giraffe_face_fla giraffe
Giraffa camelopardalis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common name: Giraffe

Habitat(s): Forest, Savanna, Shrubland
Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_LC IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Could be used as tick repellent and to prevent or treat other skin infections.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Medical

Department of Chemistry
William F. Wood
Humboldt State University
Conservation and Research Center
Paul J. Weldon
Smithsonian Institution
Wood, W. F.; Weldon, P. J. 2002. The scent of the reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata). Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 30(10): 913-917.
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