Does repeated human handling of study animals during the mating season affect their offspring?

Lindsey Swierk, Tracy Langkilde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Minimizing disturbance of study animals is a major consideration in ethological and ecological research design. One nearly universal type of disturbance is the handling of study animals as a component of trial setup. Even low to moderate levels of handling can be a substantial stressor to study animals, which may negatively affect their offspring via maternal effects. Understanding how routine human handling and manipulation may affect the outcome of research studies is therefore critical for interpreting study outcomes. We tested whether repeatedly handling and manipulating (i.e., manually disengaging) amplexed pairs of wood frogs (Rana sylvatica [Lithobates sylvaticus]), which have an explosive breeding season, would affect their reproductive output and offspring fitness. Handling and manipulation did not alter any parameter that we measured: reproductive timing, hatching success, and offspring larval duration, survival, and size at metamorphosis. These results suggest that handling and manipulation by researchers may have a negligible effect on wood frog reproduction and offspring fitness. It is possible that many species that are commonly used in reproductive studies because they suppress behavioral and physiological responses during the mating season are likewise unaffected by human handling. Nevertheless, researchers should examine possible consequences of methodological interventions on their study species in order to determine any potential influence on their results. Having a broad understanding of these effects on species that have robust or dampened stress responsiveness during the breeding season would be useful for making generalizations about potential effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-86
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology
Volume329
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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