Tête N, Fritsch C, Afonso E, Coeurdassier M, Lambert J-C, et al. (2013) Can Body Condition and Somatic Indices be Used to Evaluate Metal-Induced Stress in Wild Small Mammals? PLoS ONE 8(6): e66399. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066399
Wildlife is exposed to natural (e.g., food availability and quality, parasitism) and anthropogenic stressors (e.g., habitat fragmentation, toxicants). Individual variables (e.g., age, gender) affect behaviour and physiology of animals. Together, these parameters can create both great inter-individual variations in health indicators and interpretation difficulties. We investigated the relevance of body condition and somatic indices (liver, kidneys) as indicators of health status in wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus, n = 560) captured along a metal pollution gradient in four landscape types (30 sampling squares 500-m sided). The indices were calculated using a recently proposed standard major axis regression instead of an ordinary least square regression. After considering age and gender for the body condition index, no landscape type influence was detected in the indices. However, important index variability was observed between sampling squares; this effect was included as a random effect in linear models. After integrating all individual and environmental variables that may affect the indices, cadmium (Cd) concentrations in both the liver and kidneys were negatively related to body condition and liver indices only for individuals from highly contaminated sites. Lead in the liver was negatively related to the liver index, and Cd in kidneys was positively linked to the kidney index, potentially suggesting metal-induced stress. However, interpretation of these indices as a wildlife ecotoxicology tool should be performed with caution due to the sensitivity of potentially confounding variables (e.g., individual factors and environmental parameters).
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