CONDITION INDICES AND BIOELECTRICAL IMPEDANCE ANALYSIS TO PREDICT BODY CONDITION OF SMALL CARNIVORES

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Abstract

Body condition directly affects survival and reproduction by animals, so its effects on fitness represent an important component of animal ecology. Traditionally, ecologists have relied on direct chemical analysis or morphometric indices to assess body condition. We examined the ability of morphometric indices and bioelectrical impedance analysis to estimate body condition of raccoons (Procyon lotor) and assessed the need for species-specific models. Morphological indices were poor estimators of body condition; the best model explained 62% of the variation of fat and had a high SE (r2 = 0.62, SE = 0.52, P < 0.001). Bioelectrical impedance analysis proved to be a reliable way to noninvasively estimate body condition. Models for lean dry mass and total body water were used to accurately estimate body fat (r2 = 0.94, SE = 0.16, P < 0.001). Body fat estimates derived through models for a similar species performed better than morphometric indices but did not achieve the accuracy of the species-specific model. Examination of our data highlights the need to validate models used to estimate body condition before use.

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