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Over time decay of cortisol metabolites in faecal pellets of koalas in central Queensland
journal contributionposted on 23.12.2021, 00:02 by Flavia SantamariaFlavia Santamaria, Rolf SchlaglothRolf Schlagloth, Rupert Palme, Joerg Henning
Faecal material can be a valuable source of information for a range of animal health aspects and can be used to measure faecal cortisol metabolites (FCMs). FCM values can relate to physiological stress responses. However, freshly defecated pellets are not always available and environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity, might affect faecal pellet consistency and FCM levels. Therefore, the impact of environmental conditions on FCMs needs to be evaluated. We collected 107 samples from two female and two male koalas, exposed them to three types of treatments, and analysed FCMs in these samples with three enzyme immunoassays (EIAs). After analysis, the original FCM values were mathematically corrected for water loss. Results show that the FCMs were more stable when measured using tetrahydrocorticosterone (50c) and 5α-pregnane-3β,11β,21-triol-20-one (37e) EIAs, and were less stable when measured with the cortisol EIA. With 50c, the FCM values did not vary significantly over time either before or after the adjustment with water in the environment treatment group. For samples kept under constant low (25 ◦C) and high (35 ◦C) temperatures, the 50c FCM values did not vary significantly over time, after adjustments were made for water loss. Thus, this study highlights the importance of considering the suitability of faecal field samples for FCM analysis. Because water loss was the main driver of FCM changes, we strongly recommend collecting koala pellets that are freshly defecated, despite the effort and time it might take to collect such pellets.