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Keywords:

  • fecal steroids;
  • glucocorticoids;
  • testosterone;
  • field technique

Abstract

Hormonal analysis provides information about wildlife populations, but is difficult to conduct in the field. Our goal was to develop a rapid and effective field method for fecal steroid analysis by comparing: (1) three extraction methods (laboratory (LAB), homogenize (HO) and handshake (HS)) and (2) two storage methods (solid-phase extraction (SPE) tubes vs. plastic tubes (PT)). Samples (n=23) from captive African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) were thoroughly mixed, three aliquots of each were weighed (∼0.5 g) and 5 ml of 90% ethanol was added. For LAB, samples were agitated (mixer setting 60; 30 min), centrifuged (1,500 rpm; 20 min) and poured into glass tubes. Or aliquots were HO (1 min) or HS (1 min) and poured through filter paper into glass tubes. Samples were split, analyzed for corticosterone (C) and testosterone (T) metabolites using enzyme immunoassays or stored in SPE or PT. Samples were stored (room temperature) for 30, 60 or 180 days, reconstituted in buffer and analyzed. Mean C and T recoveries of HO were greater (P=0.03) than HS compared with LAB, which was similar to HO (P>0.05). After 30 days <21% of C and T was recovered from SPE, but ∼100% of each was recovered from HO-PT and HS-PT. Similarly, after 60 and 180 days, ∼100% of C and T was recovered from HO-PT and HS-PT. Results demonstrated that, for C and T, HO was more comparable (P<0.001) to LAB than HS and PT storage was more efficient than SPE (P<0.001). Zoo Biol 29:289–302, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.