Seeley, K. E., Proudfoot, K. L., Wolfe, B. et al. 2021. Assessing allostatic load in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). Animals 11(11), 3074.
Responses to stress are unavoidable, adaptive mechanisms in humans and non-human animals. However, in humans, chronic stress has been linked to poor health outcomes and early mortality. Allostatic load, the physiologic dysregulation that occurs when an organism is exposed to chronic stressors, has been used to assess stress in humans; less work has been done using non-human primates. Our aim was to determine the relationship between allostatic load in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) under human care and potentially stressful individual, social, medical and husbandry factors, as well a sex and age. An allostatic load index (ALI) was calculated for 38 lemurs using six biomarkers measured in serum (albumin, cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate, DNA damage, glucose and prostaglandin E2). Potentially stressful factors were recorded over the lifetime of each lemur using medical and husbandry records. Animals with a higher percentage of time spent indoors, those kept in smaller average group sizes, and those with fewer minor group composition changes had, or tended to have, higher ALI. There was no relationship between ALI and sex or age. Some social and husbandry factors were associated with allostatic load in lemurs, indicating that this index may be a useful tool in assessing and determining factors contributing to stress of lemurs and other animals under human care.