Castor sacs and anal glands of the north american beaver (Castor canadensis): their histology, development, and relationship to scent communication

J Chem Ecol. 1982 May;8(5):809-19. doi: 10.1007/BF00994781.


Both sexes of beavers possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in paired subcutaneous cavities between the pelvis and the base of the tail. The castor sacs are not glandular in the histological sense, hence references to these structures as preputial glands or castor glands are misnomers. The wall of the castor sacs is plicate and comprised of three distinct zones: an outer layer of vascular connective tissue, a two-to five-cell-thick layer of mitotic epithelial cells, and several densely packed layers of cornified epithelium which grade into more widely separated sheets toward the lumen. Monocultures of a gram-positive facultatively anaerobic bacterium were present in the lumen of all castor sac preparations. Differences in the frequency of castoreum deposition were not attributable to differences in the structure of the castor sacs. The anal glands of beavers are holocrine sebaceous glands. These glands develop more rapidly than the castor sacs. Anal gland tissue from embryos exhibited cellular characteristics associated with the production of sebum. Secretory activity was evident in all preparations. The relationship of castoreum and anal gland secretion to scent communication among beavers is discussed.