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Validation of noninvasive monitoring of adrenocortical endocrine activity in ground-feeding aardwolves (Proteles cristata): Exemplifying the influence of consumption of inorganic material for fecal steroid analysis

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 11:23 authored by Ganswindt, A, Muilwijk, C, Engelkes, M, Muenscher, S, Bertschinger, H, Paris, M, Palme, R, Elissa Cameron, Bennett, NC, Dalerum, F
Biologically inert material in feces may confound interpretations of noninvasive fecal endocrine data, because it may induce variance related to differences in foraging behavior rather than to differences in endocrine activity. We evaluated two different enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) for the noninvasive evaluation of adrenocortical activity in ground-feeding aardwolves (Proteles cristata) and tested the influence of soil content in aardwolf feces on the interpretation of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite data. Using adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenges for validation, we successfully identified a cortisol EIA suitable for assessing adrenocortical activity in aardwolves. An alternatively tested 11-oxoetiocholanolone EIA failed to detect a biologically relevant signal after ACTH administration. Although the proportion of inorganic content in aardwolf feces did not alter qualitative conclusions from the endocrine data, the data related to mass of organic content had a larger amount of variance attributed to relevant biological contrasts and a lower amount of variance attributed to individual variation, compared with data related to total dry mass of extracted material. Compared with data expressed as dry mass of extracted material, data expressed as mass of organic content may provide a more refined and statistically powerful measure of endocrine activity in species that ingest large amounts of indigestible material.


Publication title

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology








School of Natural Sciences


University of Chicago Press

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