Concentrations of faecal glucocorticoid metabolites in Asian elephant's dung are stable for up to 8 h in a tropical environment

Wong, Ee Phin and Yon, Lisa and Purcell, Rebecca and Walker, Susan L. and Othman, Nasharuddin and Saaban, Salman and Campos-Arceiz, Ahimsa (2016) Concentrations of faecal glucocorticoid metabolites in Asian elephant's dung are stable for up to 8 h in a tropical environment. Conservation Physiology, 4 (1). pp. 1-7. ISSN 2051-1434

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Abstract

The use of faecal glucocorticoid metabolites (fGCMs) has facilitated the development of non-invasive methods to study physiological conditions of endangered wildlife populations. One limitation is that fGCM concentrations are known to change over time and to vary according to different environmental conditions. The aim of this study was to perform a controlled dung decay experiment to understand the impact of time (since defecation) and two common environmental variables (exposure to water and direct sunlight) on fGCM concentrations of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Eighty dung piles from 10 Malaysian elephants were randomly exposed to a 2 × 2 combination of treatments (wet–shade, dry–shade, wet–sun and dry–sun) and repeatedly subsampled from the time of defecation through to 2 days post-defecation (n = 685 faecal subsamples). Overall, the mean concentration of fGCMs was stable in samples of up to 8 h old from defecation time, regardless of environmental treatment (water or direct sunlight); thereafter, the overall mean fGCM concentrations increased, peaking 1 day after defecation (31.8% higher than at defecation time), and subsequently decreased (reaching values 9.2% below defecation time on the second day). Overall, the treatment of sun exposure resulted in higher fGCM concentration compared with shade, whereas water exposure (compared with no water exposure) had no impact on fGCM concentrations. Hence, in field studies we recommend collecting dung samples <8 h old and recording shade conditions (e.g. sun vs. shade) as a covariate for the subsequent interpretation of fGCM measurements. This study has helped to identify the optimal window for sampling in which we can have a higher confidence in interpreting the results as being a genuine reflection of glucocorticoid status in the elephant.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Adrenal activity, Asian elephant, Dung decay, Elephas maximus, Faecal glucocorticoid metabolites, Non-invasive monitoring
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/cow070
Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2017 14:20
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2017 16:28
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/39664

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