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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2010 Aug 1;168(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2010.04.004. Epub 2010 Apr 20.

Non-invasive measurement of thyroid hormone in feces of a diverse array of avian and mammalian species.

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Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, University of Washington, P.O. Box 351800, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


We developed and validated a non-invasive thyroid hormone measure in feces of a diverse array of birds and mammals. An I(131) radiolabel ingestion study in domestic dogs coupled with High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) analysis, showed that peak excretion in feces occurred at 24-48h post-ingestion, with I(131)-labelled thyroid hormone metabolites excreted primarily as triiodothyronine (T3) and relatively little thyroxine (T4), at all excretion times examined. The immunoreactive T3 profile across these same HPLC fractions closely corresponded with the I(131) radioactive profile. By contrast, the T4 immunoreactive profile was disproportionately high, suggesting that T4 excretion included a high percentage of T4 stores. We optimized and validated T3 and T4 extraction and assay methods in feces of wild northern spotted owls, African elephants, howler monkeys, caribou, moose, wolf, maned wolf, killer whales and Steller sea lions. We explained 99% of the variance in high and low T3 concentrations derived from species-specific sample pools, after controlling for species and the various extraction methods tested. Fecal T3 reflected nutritional deficits in two male and three female howler monkeys held in captivity for translocation from a highly degraded habitat. Results suggest that thyroid hormone can be accurately and reliably measured in feces, providing important indices for environmental physiology across a diverse array of birds and mammals.

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