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Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Seasonal variation in plasma corticosterone concentrations in wild and captive adult Duvaucel’s geckos (Hoplodactylus duvaucelii) in New Zealand

Manuela Barry A C , John F. Cockrem B and Dianne H. Brunton A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Ecology & Conservation Group, Institute for Natural Sciences, Massey University Albany, Private Bag 102 904, Auckland, New Zealand.

B Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Zoology 58(4) 234-242
Submitted: 19 March 2010  Accepted: 13 September 2010   Published: 13 October 2010


Most of New Zealand’s herpetofauna species are threatened and in decline. Yet, little is known about their basic physiology and endocrinology. This study examined plasma corticosterone (CORT) concentrations in a threatened endemic New Zealand reptile, the Duvaucel’s gecko, in relation to season, sex, body temperature, body condition and female reproductive condition (pregnant versus non-pregnant). In addition, seasonal plasma CORT concentrations were compared between captive geckos from a breeding facility and a wild population to determine whether concentrations of CORT were chronically elevated in captive lizards. Plasma CORT concentrations showed significant seasonal variation, but were not related to sex, body temperature, body condition or female reproductive condition. Geckos, which successfully bred in captivity each year, did not exhibit chronically elevated plasma CORT levels but showed an elevation of plasma CORT concentrations in summer compared with wild geckos. Information on basal CORT concentrations in species of conservation concern can be beneficial for improving their management and can aid in identifying and evaluating stress-related changes in hormone patterns of individuals and chronic stress, which is particularly relevant for threatened species breeding programs.

Additional keywords: captive breeding, reptiles.


Financial support was provided by Massey University and Landcare Research (Manaaki Whenua, FRST contract No CO9X0503). We thank the staff of the NZ Department of Conservation, especially Rob Chappell and Dr David Towns for their time and logistic support and all volunteers for assistance in the field. We thank the representatives of the Ngati Paoa, Ngati Whanaunga and Ngati Hako and Ngati Wei (indigenous Maori people) for giving their consent to carry out this research on Maori land. Many thanks to Dr John Potter for providing veterinary support. Thanks to Dr Alison Cree for providing useful information and suggestions for this study, to Chris Wedding and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript as well as to Jane Candy for technical support with hormone assays and assay development. This research was approved by the NZ Department of Conservation (permit number: WK-20506-RES) and the Massey University animal ethics committee (permit number: 07/16).


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