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Keywords:

  • Australia;
  • bait marker detection;
  • black rats;
  • hair type;
  • microscopy;
  • palatability;
  • pest management;
  • Rattus rattus;
  • rhodamine B

Abstract

Rhodamine B (RB) is a popular bait-marking tool in wildlife research, although its use has required many assumptions about marking reliability. These assumptions have limited dosage ranges and detection methods in research applications. Identification of alternate detection methods, hair types, and dosage rates could create new opportunities for RB use and potentially reduce adverse effects on target animals. We examined the relationship between hair types, dosage rate, and detection method for RB applications using black rats (Rattus rattus) in laboratory settings. We gave study animals varying doses of RB, and examined vibrissae and guard hairs for the detection of RB bands using ambient light, ultraviolet (UV) light, and fluorescence microscopy techniques. Fluorescence microscopy detected more RB marked hairs than UV light or ambient light. Fluorescence microscopy was more sensitive to RB dose rate detection; with receiver operating characteristic curves suggesting that the minimum dose rates at which RB intake can be correctly detected are 3.9 and 33 mg/kg for vibrissae and guard hairs, respectively. Guard hair RB detection was less reliable under ambient light and UV lamps, but equally detectable as vibrissae under fluorescence microscopy. Our results confirmed the interrelationship between dosage and detection methods in the efficacy of bait markers. We demonstrated that guard hairs can be a reliable hair type for the detection of RB. This application is less invasive than sampling animal tissues to detect bait uptake. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.