Diurnal fecal glucocorticoid metabolite rhythms in a cathemeral primate, the red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer), and across mammalian species

Stacey R. Tecot, Gianna M. Ossello, Paige G. Smith, Laingoniaina H.F. Rakotonirina, Albert Telo, Victor Rasendry N., Emile Rakotonirina T., Mateo Peñaherrera-Aguirre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Measuring glucocorticoids is one of the most reliable and widely used techniques to monitor stress responses, however invasive techniques to collect plasma samples may not be applicable for wild populations. Monitoring excreted glucocorticoids is an effective noninvasive technique that researchers have used increasingly over the past two decades, and it has allowed the investigation of glucocorticoids in a variety of species with a range of activity patterns. Many species exhibit predictable circadian patterns of glucocorticoid secretion in accordance with their daily activity pattern. There remains a gap in our understanding of how excreted glucocorticoid metabolites vary throughout the day and across species, despite the utility of this information when developing sampling protocols and analyzing data. We investigated circadian patterns of glucocorticoid excretion in a cathemeral primate species, Eulemur rubriventer (red-bellied lemur), in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. We collected fecal samples from 10 individuals throughout the day and analyzed fecal glucocorticoid levels across three time points (Early, Midday, and Late), and again across two time points (Morning and Afternoon). We also investigated whether activity pattern, sex (as a control variable), and other traits associated with gut passage rate (diet, body mass) could help predict the presence and timing of circadian patterns of fecal glucocorticoid metabolites across mammal species. We found that fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels in E. rubriventer fluctuate throughout the day, with lowest levels in the morning and peak levels in the afternoon. None of the variables that we tested predicted whether daily fecal glucocorticoid metabolites changed significantly throughout the day, nor when levels were likely to peak, across species. We stress the importance of controlling for sampling time and reporting these results as standard practice in studies of fecal glucocorticoid metabolites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23521
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • activity pattern
  • circadian rhythm
  • cortisol
  • cross-species comparisons
  • diel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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