Polar Biology

, Volume 26, Issue 7, pp 491–493 | Cite as

Validation of an enzyme immunoassay to measure faecal glucocorticoid metabolites from Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae): a non-invasive tool for estimating stress?

  • Shinichi Nakagawa
  • Erich MöstlEmail author
  • Joseph R. Waas
Short Note


To monitor adrenocortical activity in Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae), we validated an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) for faecal glucocorticoid (GC) metabolites. An adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) challenge was conducted on a paired female and male. The EIA for tetrahydrocorticosterone showed a clear response to the ACTH challenge in both birds. After high-performance liquid chromatography using pooled samples generated from the ACTH challenge, and analysing each individual fraction, three immunoreactive peaks were detected. Both biological and chemical validations strongly suggest that the EIA can be a useful tool for non-invasively measuring GC metabolites in faeces of Adélie penguins.


Immunoreactive Material Faecal Glucocorticoid Metabolite ACTH Injection Faecal Glucocorticoid Corticosterone Metabolite 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank K. Barton, P. Wilson, D. Bell, C. Morrow, G. Verkerk, A. Coolman, A. Kuchar-Schulz, K. Allen and T. Day for practical help and advice. We are also grateful to J. Ingram, C. Vleck and one anonymous referee whose comments improved our manuscript. This research was funded and supported by Antarctica New Zealand, the University of Waikato and the Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien.


  1. Enzenbacher DJ (1992) Tourists in Antarctica: numbers and trends. Polar Rec 28:17–22Google Scholar
  2. Fowler GS (1999) Behavioral and hormonal responses of Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) to tourism and nest site visitation. Biol Conserv 90:143–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Giese M (1996) Effects of human activity on Adélie penguin Pygoscelis adeliae breeding success. Biol Conserv 75:157–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Goymann W, Möstl E, Van't Hof T, East ML, Hofer H (1999) Noninvasive faecal monitoring of glucocorticoids in spotted hyenas, Crocuta crocuta. Gen Comp Endocrinol 114:340–348CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Kotrschal K, Hirschenhauser K, Möstl E (1998) The relationship between social stress and dominance is seasonal in greylag geese. Anim Behav 55:171–176CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. McQueen SM, Davis LS, Young G (1999) Sex steroid and corticosterone levels of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) during courtship and incubation. Gen Comp Endocrinol 114:11–18CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Möstl E, Maggs JL, Schrötter G, Besenfelder U, Palme R (2002) Measurement of cortisol metabolites in faeces of ruminants. Vet Res Commun 26:127–139CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Paterson AM, Wallis GP, Gray RD (1995) Penguins, petrels and parsimony: does cladistic analysis of behavior reflect seabird phylogeny? Evolution 49:974–989Google Scholar
  9. Quillfeldt P, Möstl E (2003) Resource allocation in Wilson's storm-petrels determined by measurement of glucocorticoid excretion. Acta Ethol. DOI 10.1007/s102110030074Google Scholar
  10. Romero LM, Romero R (2002) Corticosterone responses in wild birds: the importance of rapid initial sampling. Condor 104:129–135Google Scholar
  11. Sibley CG, Ahlquist JE (1990) Phylogeny and classification of birds: a study in molecular evolution. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  12. Vleck CM, Vertalino N, Vleck D, Bucher TL (2000) Stress, corticosterone, and heterophil to lymphocyte ratios in free-living Adélie penguins. Condor 102:392–400Google Scholar
  13. Wasser SK, Hunt KE, Brown JL, Cooper K, Crockett CM, Bechert U, Millspaugh JJ, Larson S, Monfort SL (2000) A generalized fecal glucocorticoid assay for use in a diverse array of nondomestic mammalian and avian species. Gen Comp Endocrinol 120:260–275CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Williams TD (1995) The penguins: Spheniscidae. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shinichi Nakagawa
    • 2
  • Erich Möstl
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joseph R. Waas
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut für BiochemieVeterinärmedizinische Universität WienViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations