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Conserv Physiol. 2018 Sep 27;6(1):coy055. doi: 10.1093/conphys/coy055. eCollection 2018.

Assay validation and interspecific comparison of salivary glucocorticoids in three amphibian species.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, 105 Clapp Hall, 5th Ave. at Ruskin Ave., Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Amphibians are one of the most threatened groups of species, facing stressors ranging from habitat degradation and pollution to disease and overexploitation. Stress hormones (glucocorticoids, GCs) provide one quantitative metric of stress, and developing non-invasive methods for measuring GCs in amphibians would clarify how diverse environmental stressors impact individual health in this taxonomic group. Saliva is an advantageous matrix for quantifying GCs, as it is sampled less invasively than plasma while still detecting both baseline and acute elevation of GCs within a short timeframe. Little work has employed this method in amphibian species, and it has never been pharmacologically and biologically validated. Here, we conduct analytical, pharmacological and biological validation experiments for measuring salivary corticosterone in three amphibian species: the American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), the green frog (Rana clamitans) and the northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens). These species are faced with a broad range of environmental challenges, and in part of its range R. pipiens populations are currently in decline. In addition to demonstrating that this method can be reliably used in multiple amphibian species, we present an examination of intrinsic biological factors (sex, body condition) that may contribute to GC secretion, and a demonstration that saliva can be collected from free-living animals in the field to quantify corticosterone. Our findings suggest that saliva may be useful for less invasively quantifying GCs in many amphibian species.


ACTH; handling; non-invasive; saliva; stress

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