Navarro-Castilla, A., Garrido, M., Hawlena, H. et al. 2021. Non-invasive monitoring of adrenocortical activity in three sympatric desert gerbil species. Animals 11(1), 75.
The study of the endocrine status can be useful to understand wildlife responses to the changing environment. Here, we validated an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) to non-invasively monitor adrenocortical activity by measuring fecal corticosterone metabolites (FCM) in three sympatric gerbil species (Gerbillus andersoni, G. gerbillus and G. pyramidum) from the Northwestern Negev Desert’s sands (Israel). Animals included into treatment groups were injected with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) to stimulate adrenocortical activity, while control groups received a saline solution. Feces were collected at different intervals and FCM were quantified by an EIA. Basal FCM levels were similar in the three species. The ACTH effect was evidenced, but the time of FCM peak concentrations appearance differed between the species (6–24 h post-injection). Furthermore, FCM peak values were observed sooner in G. andersoni females than in males (6 h and 18 h post-injection, respectively). G. andersoni and G. gerbillus males in control groups also increased FCM levels (18 h and 48 h post-injection, respectively). Despite the small sample sizes, our results confirmed the EIA suitability for analyzing FCM in these species as a reliable indicator of the adrenocortical activity. This study also revealed that close species, and individuals within a species, can respond differently to the same stressor.