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Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, temperature, and age affect faecal thyroid hormone concentrations in free-ranging African elephants.

Szott, I, Pretorius, Y, Ganswindt, A and Koyama, NF Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, temperature, and age affect faecal thyroid hormone concentrations in free-ranging African elephants. Conservation Physiology. ISSN 2051-1434 (Accepted)

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Abstract

Conservation biologists can use hormone measurements to assess animals’ welfare, reproductive state, susceptibility to stressors, as well as energy expenditure. Quantifying hormone concentrations from faecal samples is particularly advantageous as samples can be collected without disturbing animals’ behaviour. In order for an endocrine marker to be useful for wildlife managers, we need to understand how extrinsic and intrinsic factors affect hormone concentrations in free-ranging animal populations. Thyroid hormones are linked to basal metabolic rate and energy expenditure. Previous research demonstrated that triiodothyronine (T3) can be measured successfully in faecal matter of African elephants, Loxodonta africana. However, to our knowledge, research into factors affecting changes in elephant T3 levels has only been carried out in captive elephants so far. Thus, we present the first study of faecal T3 metabolite (mT3) concentrations of a large population of free-ranging African elephants. Over 15 months, we collected faecal samples from identified (n=43 samples) and unidentified (n=145 samples) individuals in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. We investigated whether vegetative productivity (NDVI) in interaction with mean monthly temperature, age, and sex affected mT3 concentrations. We found a significant negative interaction effect of NDVI and temperature. Increasing NDVI was related to higher concentrations of mT3, but increasing temperature was related to a decrease in mT3 concentrations in individually identified and unidentified elephants. In unidentified individuals, juvenile elephants had significantly higher mT3 concentrations compared to adult elephants. Faecal T3 can successfully be quantified in samples from free-ranging elephant populations and thus provides insight into energy expenditure in large herbivores.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (new Sep 19)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2020 11:39
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2020 11:45
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/12192

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