Measuring body condition of lizards: A comparison between non-invasive dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, chemical fat extraction and calculated indices

Guy Sion, Maggie J. Watson, Amos Bouskila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background

Condition indices (CIs) are used in ecological studies as a way of measuring an individual animal’s health and fitness. Noninvasive CIs are estimations of a relative score of fat content or rely on a ratio of body mass compared to some measure of size, usually a linear dimension such as tarsus or snout-vent length. CIs are generally validated invasively by lethal fat extraction as in a seasonal sample of individuals in a population. Many alternatives to lethal fat extraction are costly or time consuming. As an alternative, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) allows for non-destructive analysis of body composition and enables multiple measurements during an animal’s life time. DXA has never been used for ecological studies in a small, free-ranging lizard before, therefore we calibrated this method against a chemical extraction of fat from a sample of 6 geckos (Israeli fan toed gecko Ptyodactylus guttatus) ranging in body mass between 4.2–11.5 g. We then  used this calibrated  DXA measurements to determine the best linear measurement calculated CI for this species.

Results

We found that fat mass measured with DXA was significantly correlated with the mass of chemically extracted fat for specimens more than 4.8 g (N = 5, R2 = 0.995, P < 0.001). Fat percentage regressed with body mass significantly predicted the DXA fat percentage (N = 29, R2adj. = 0.862, p < 0.001). Live wet mass was significantly correlated with predicted fat mass (N = 30, R2 = 0.984, P < 0.001) for specimens more than 4.8 g. Among the five calculated non-invasive CIs that we tested, the best was mass/SVL.

Conclusions

We recommend that in situations where DXA cannot be used, that the most accurate of the body condition estimators for  this species is mass/SVL (snout-vent length) for both sexes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Zoology
Volume18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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