Effects of natural weathering conditions on glucocorticoid metabolite measurements in the greater bilby faeces
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Natural weathering conditions can influence faecal cortisol metabolite (FCM) measurements in wildlife if fresh faeces cannot be collected immediately following defaecation. In this study, we evaluated this issue in a threatened Australian marsupial, the greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis). Fresh (<12 h since defaecation) faecal samples (n = 19 pellets per bilby) were collected one morning from seven adult bilbies kept in captivity. One control faecal sample (Day 1) from each bilby was immediately frozen. The remaining faecal pellets were randomly positioned outdoors. Subsequently, we froze one faecal pellet every 24 h for 19 days. FCM levels in bilby faeces were quantified using an enzyme-immunoassay. Mean FCM levels showed variation (daily mean coefficients of variation [CV %]) of 56.83-171.65% over 19 days. Overall, FCM levels were affected by exposure time; however, multiple comparisons showed that no significant change in FCM occurred after environmental exposure (no significant difference in mean FCM between control (Day 1) with any of the exposure days (Days 2-19). Individuals and sex also affected FCM levels. We found no correlation between mean daily CVs with daily minimum-maximum temperatures or rainfall. Our results indicate that FCM in bilby faeces is fairly stable to long-term environmental exposure (19 days). In future, freshly excreted bilby faeces (where the sample maintains a distinct odour for 9-13 days) should be used to study FCM levels in wild bilbies.
Australian Journal of Zoology
Conservation and Biodiversity