A new method for testosterone determination in spotted hyenas

Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and enzyme immunoassay. Photo: East ML & Dehnhard M
Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and enzyme immunoassay. Photo: East ML & Dehnhard M

Innovation in hormone research – A team of researchers from the Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and the University of Pretoria succeeded for the first-time in measuring metabolites of testosterone excreted in the faeces of spotted hyenas. This innovative non-invasive research method is essential to avoid disturbance of animals.

In male mammals, testosterone plays a key role in both development and reproduction.  Thus, measures of changes in testosterone concentration both within an animal's lifespan and across populations provide information essential for an understanding of growth, reproductive strategies and aging. However, hormone research normally requires the taking of blood samples, which in wild animals is difficult, and not always possible, particularly in protected areas where the capture of wild animals is often prohibited. Additionally, capture and blood sampling may cause stress in wild animals, thereby inducing a change in the hormone concentration being measured. In contrast, the non-invasive monitoring of hormones avoids all these problems. Thus, physiological data of free-ranging animals can be collected easily, thereby allowing repeated sampling from the same animal in its natural environment throughout its lifespan.

Details and verification of the efficacy of the first antibody-based enzyme immunoassay to monitor faecal testosterone metabolites in spotted hyenas are published in PLOS ONE. It is now possible to investigate the influence of age, social status and reproductive behavioural strategies on testosterone concentrations in wild spotted hyenas.


Pribbenow SEast ML, Ganswindt A, Tordiffe ASW, Hofer HDehnhard M (2015): Measuring faecal epi-androsterone as an indicator of gonadal activity in spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). PLOS ONE. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128706



Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)
Alfred-Kowalke-Str. 17
10315 Berlin
Susanne Pribbenow
Tel.: +49 30 5168-619
Steven Seet
Tel.: +49 30 5168-125



Background information:

The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) investigates the vitality and adaptability of wildlife populations in mammalian and avian species of outstanding ecological interest that face anthropogenic challenges. It studies the adaptive value of traits in the life cycle of wildlife, wildlife diseases and clarifies the biological basis and development of methods for the protection of threatened species. Such knowledge is a precondition for a scientifically based approach to conservation and for the development of concepts for the ecologically sustainable use of natural resources. The IZW belongs to the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (www.fv-berlin.de)



The Leibniz Association connects 89 independent research institutions that range in focus from the natural, engineering and environmental sciences via economics, spatial and social sciences to the humanities. Leibniz Institutes address issues of social, economic and ecological relevance. They conduct knowledge-driven and applied basic research, maintain scientific infrastructure and provide research-based services. The Leibniz Association identifies focus areas for knowledge transfer to policy-makers, academia, business and the public. Leibniz Institutes collaborate intensively with universities – in the form of “WissenschaftsCampi” (thematic partnerships between university and non-university research institutes), for example – as well as with industry and other partners at home and abroad. They are subject to an independent evaluation procedure that is unparalleled in its transparency. Due to the institutes’ importance for the country as a whole, they are funded jointly by the Federation and the Länder, employing some 17,500 individuals, including 8,800 researchers. The entire budget of all the institutes is approximately 1.5 billion EUR.