Inside out: heart rate monitoring to advance the welfare and conservation of maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Rosana N Moraes, Timothy G Laske, Peter Leimgruber, Jared A Stabach, Paul E Marinari, Megan M Horning, Noelle R Laske, Juan V Rodriguez, Ginger N Eye, Jessica Kordell
Conservation Physiology
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Anthropogenic change is a major threat to individual species and biodiversity. Yet the behavioral and physiological responses of animals to these changes remain understudied. This is due to the technological challenges in assessing these effects in situ. Using captive maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus, n = 6) as a model, we deployed implantable biologgers and collected physiological data on heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) over a 1-year period. To test for links between HR and changes in the environment we analysed HR daily rhythms and responses to potential stressors (e.g. physical restraint, change in housing conditions, short-distance transportation and unfamiliar human presence). The 2-min HR averages ranged from 33 to 250 bpm, with an overall rest average of 73 bpm and a maximum of 296 bpm. On average, HRV was higher in females (227 ± 51 ms) than in males (151 ± 51 ms). As expected, HR increased at dusk and night when animals were more active and in response to stressors. Sudden decreases in HR were observed during transportation in three wolves, suggestive of fear bradycardia. We provide the first non-anesthetic HR values for the species and confirm that behaviour does not always reflect the shifts in autonomic tone in response to perceived threats. Because strong HR responses often were not revealed by observable changes in behaviour, our findings suggest that the number and variety of stressors in ex situ or in situ environments for maned wolves and most wildlife species may be underestimated. Our study also shows that integrating biologging with behavioral observations can provide vital information to guide captive management. Similar technology can be used to advance in situ research for developing more effective welfare, management and conservation plans for the species.


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