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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2013 Sep 15;191:24-30. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2013.05.012. Epub 2013 May 30.

Non-invasive monitoring of glucocorticoid physiology within highland and lowland populations of native Australian Great Barred Frog (Mixophyes fasciolatus).

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Environmental Futures Centre, School of Environment, Griffith University, Nathan Campus, QLD 4111, Australia.


This study used non-invasive endocrinology to examine baseline corticosterone at different altitudes in a free-living Australian amphibian: the Great Barred Frog (Mixophyes fasciolatus). An enzyme immunoassay (EIA) was performed on urine samples and validated biologically using an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenge. Frogs were injected with ACTH on day 0 and recaptures occurred 1-10days post injection. Urine samples and body condition measurements were collected from lowland (60m) and highland (660m and 790m) sub-populations of M. fasciolatus in South East Queensland (SEQ), close to their post-breeding period during autumn 2011. We simultaneously sampled these sub-populations for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a pathogenic fungus responsible for mass mortalities of amphibians worldwide. The ACTH challenge successfully validated the urinary corticosterone EIA in M. fasciolatus, with a peak urinary corticosterone response to ACTH injection on day 2 and a return to baseline levels by day 6. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of 50 individuals returned only 1 positive result for Bd. Simple linear regression showed a strong positive relationship between baseline urinary corticosterone concentrations and altitude and no relationship with body condition. We hypothesize that higher baseline corticosterone concentrations within highland sub-populations of male M. fasciolatus could be associated with increased environmental challenge at high altitudes and geographic range limits. Whether this pattern is an indication of chronic stress in highland populations or life-time fitness and survival, warrants future investigation.


Altitude; Chytridiomycosis; Climate; Conservation physiology; Corticosterone; Mixophyes fasciolatus

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