Urinary corticosterone responses to capture and toe-clipping in the cane toad (Rhinella marina) indicate that toe-clipping is a stressor for amphibians
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Toe-clipping, the removal of one or more toes, is a common method used to individually mark free-living animals. Whilst this method is widely used in studies of amphibians, the appropriateness of the method, and its potential detrimental effects have been the subject of debate. Here, we provide for the first time, evidence that toe-clipping is a stressor in a wild amphibian. We measured urinary corticosterone responses of male cane toads (Rhinella marina) to capture and handling only, and to toe-clipping under field conditions. Urinary testosterone concentrations and white blood cell proportions were also measured. Urinary corticosterone metabolite concentrations increased 6 h after capture and handling only and remained high for 24 h; corticosterone returned to baseline levels after 48 h and remained low at 72 h post capture and handling. Corticosterone concentrations in toads subjected to toe-clipping increased at 6 h to significantly higher concentrations than after capture and handling only, then decreased more slowly than after capture and handling, and were still elevated (approximately double basal level) 72 h after toe-clipping. Testosterone did not change significantly after capture and handling only, whereas after toe-clipping testosterone decreased at 6 h and remained low at 72 h. There were weak short-term effects of toe-clipping compared with capture and handling only on white blood cell proportions. We have clearly shown that toe-clipping is a distinctly stronger stressor than capture and handling alone. This indicates that there is an ethical cost of toe-clipping, and this should be considered when planning studies of amphibians.
General and Comparative Endocrinology
Ecology not elsewhere classified
Conservation and Biodiversity