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Potential bio-indicators for assessment of mineral status in elephants

Sach, Fiona; Dierenfeld, Ellen S; Langley-Evans, Simon C; Hamilton, Elliott; Lark, R Murray; Yon, Lisa; Watts, Michael J

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Fiona Sach

Ellen S Dierenfeld

Simon C Langley-Evans

Elliott Hamilton

R Murray Lark

Associate Professor

Michael J Watts


© 2020, The Author(s). The aim of this study was two-fold: (1) identify suitable bio-indicators to assess elemental status in elephants using captive elephant samples, and (2) understand how geochemistry influences mineral intake. Tail hair, toenail, faeces, plasma and urine were collected quarterly from 21 elephants at five UK zoos. All elephant food, soil from enclosure(s), and drinking water were also sampled. Elemental analysis was conducted on all samples, using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, focusing on biologically functional minerals (Ca, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, Se and Zn) and trace metals (As, Cd, Pb, U and V). Linear mixed modelling was used to identify how keeper-fed diet, water and soil were reflected in sample bio-indicators. No sample matrix reflected the status of all assessed elements. Toenail was the best bio-indicator of intake for the most elements reviewed in this study, with keeper-fed diet being the strongest predictor. Calcium status was reflected in faeces, (p 0.019, R2 between elephant within zoo - 0.608). In this study urine was of no value in determining mineral status here and plasma was of limited value. Results aimed to define the most suitable bio-indicators to assess captive animal health and encourage onward application to wildlife management.


Sach, F., Dierenfeld, E. S., Langley-Evans, S. C., Hamilton, E., Lark, R. M., Yon, L., & Watts, M. J. (2020). Potential bio-indicators for assessment of mineral status in elephants. Scientific Reports, 10, Article 8032.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 22, 2020
Online Publication Date May 15, 2020
Publication Date May 15, 2020
Deposit Date Apr 24, 2020
Publicly Available Date May 15, 2020
Journal Scientific Reports
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Article Number 8032
Keywords Loxodonta africana; Elephas maximus; geochemistry; mineral status; bio- 31 indicators for health; nutrition 32
Public URL
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Additional Information Sach, F., Dierenfeld, E.S., Langley-Evans, S.C. et al. Potential bio-indicators for assessment of mineral status in elephants. Sci Rep 10, 8032 (2020).


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