Beeby, N., Baden, A. L., Higham, J. P. 2023. Urinary C-peptide and total triiodothyronine as energetic biomarkers for studies of lemurs. American Journal of Primatology 85(12), e23563.

Measuring energy balance and energy metabolism can provide crucial information for understanding the ecological and behavioral drivers of an animal’s energetic and physiological condition. Both urinary C-peptide (uCP) of insulin and urinary total triiodothyronine (uTT3) have been validated as noninvasive biomarkers of energy balance and metabolic activity in haplorrhine primates. This study attempts to validate uCP and uTT3 measures in strepsirrhines, a phylogenetically distinct primate clade, using the ruffed lemur (genus Varecia) as a model. We experimentally manipulated the diet of captive black-and-white (Varecia variegata) and red (Varecia rubra) ruffed lemurs at Duke Lemur Center across a 4-week period. We collected urine samples from subjects (n = 5) each day during 1 week of control diet, 2 weeks of calorie-restricted diet and 1 week of refeeding, designed to temporarily reduce energy balance and metabolism. We also tested the outcome of filter paper as a storage method by comparing to controls (frozen at −20°C) to assess its suitability for studies of wild populations. We successfully measured uCP and uTT3 levels in frozen urine samples using commercial enzyme immunoassay kits and found that both biomarkers were excreted at lower concentrations (C-peptide: 1.35 ng/mL, 54% reduction; TT3: 1.5 ng/mL, 37.5% reduction) during calorie-restricted periods compared to normal diet periods. Filter paper recovery for uCP was 19%, though values were significantly positively correlated with frozen control samples. uTT3 could not be recovered at measurable concentrations using filter paper. These methods enable noninvasive measurement of energetic conditions in wild strepsirrhines and subsequent assessment of relationships between energy balance and numerous socioecological drivers in primate populations.

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