Biological techniques

Stress in the field

Conserv Physiol 6, coy008 (2018)

In many parts of the world, amphibian populations are stressed. To monitor those populations, researchers need a way to quickly assess individual animals in the field, where fecal samples can be hard to come by and other methods, like blood draws, measuring hormones from tank water, or analysis post-euthanasia, aren’t well suited. The field could use a simpler alternative.

Researchers recently developed a method to gauge stress that uses non-invasive skin swabs to measure glucocorticoid secretions. They first tested it with a variety of captive amphibians before and after they were exposed to stressful situations. The swabs picked up the difference in all but hellbenders, a giant salamander native to eastern North America. Out in the field, the swabbing approach successfully detected glucocorticoids in several wild species. It also revealed that capture method can impact stress levels in amphibians.

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Correspondence to Ellen P. Neff.

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Neff, E.P. Stress in the field. Lab Anim 47, 308 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41684-018-0186-5

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