Hydrocarbons are present in the cuticular wax of most plants, mainly as mixtures of n-alkanes, but are rarely the

Table 1 Major components of plant epicuticular wax




Wax esters

Free long chain fatty alcohols

Free long chain fatty acids

Long chain fatty aldehydes and ketones

ß diketones


Saturated straight chain hydrocarbons (n alkanes) and branched chain alkanes; unsaturated hydrocarbons (alkenes). Predominantly odd numbered carbon chains Esters of long chain fatty acids and fatty alcohols (mainly even numbered carbon chains C32 C64) Predominantly even numbered carbon chains Predominantly even numbered carbon chains Quantitative analytical procedure not yet established Quantitative analytical procedure not yet established Potentially difficult to separate from alcohols aNot part of plant wax, but extracted together with plant wax components.

major component of plant wax. Their carbon chain lengths range from C21 to C37, with over 90% by weight having odd-numbered carbon chains. In pasture plants, C29, C31, and C33 predominate. Alkanes are easily analyzed and relatively inert, and thus have received the most attention as potential fecal markers.

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