Non-invasive monitoring of physiological markers in primates

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The monitoring of endocrine markers that inform about an animal's physiological state has become an invaluable tool for studying the behavioral ecology of primates. While the collection of blood samples usually requires the animal to be caught and immobilized, non-invasively collected samples of saliva, urine, feces or hair can be obtained without any major disturbance of the subject of interest. Such samples enable repeated collection which is required for matching behavioral information over long time periods with detailed information on endocrine markers.

We start our review by giving an overview of endocrine and immune markers that have been successfully monitored in relation to topics of interest in primate behavioral ecology. These topics include reproductive, nutritional and health status, changes during ontogeny, social behavior such as rank relationships, aggression and cooperation as well as welfare and conservation issues. We continue by explaining which hormones can be measured in which matrices, and potential problems with measurements. We then describe different methods of hormone measurements and address their advantages and disadvantages. We finally emphasize the importance of thorough validation procedures when measuring a specific hormone in a new species or matrix.

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