Ultra-performance convergence chromatography tandem mass spectrometry analysis of adrenal and gonadal steroid hormones in southern white rhinoceros(Ceratotherium simum simum) faeces and serum. Academic Article uri icon


  • Steroid hormone analysis is routinely undertaken in the assessment of stress response and reproductive function in the management of both captive and free-ranging wildlife species. Faecal samples have become the preferred sample type for analysis as collection is non-invasive and easily assessable. These investigations are generally aimed at aiding successful translocations, enhanced survival outcomes in captivity and improvement of reproductive rate. Immunoassays are the most common approach in the analysis of hormones, particularly in the case of the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum). Non-specificity, attributed to structural similarity of steroid metabolites impedes accurate evaluations which can be eliminated by chromatographic techniques which are more specific, selective and provide comprehensive analyses. This study developed and validated three methods using ultra-performance convergence chromatography tandem mass spectrometry for the assessment of classical androgens, progestogens and adrenal steroids, as well as the C11-oxy androgens and C11-oxy progestogens in serum and faeces from white rhinoceros. The limit of detection and quantification were determined for each steroid, parameters such as accuracy (<19.8% RSD) and precision (<20.2% RSD) were established with recovery, matrix effect, and process efficiency within acceptable limits. Subsequent analysis of serum and faecal samples from five white rhinoceros identified novel steroids for the first time in this species. In addition to the classical adrenal steroids, the following C11-oxy steroids were detected in faecal samples: 11-hydroxydihydroprogesterone (168ng/g), 11-hydroxyprogesterone (125.9ng/g), 11-hydroxyprogesterone (210.2ng/g) and 11-ketoandrostenedione (3.3-19.6ng/g) with 11-deoxycortisol being the major glucocorticoid (24.2-67.3ng/g) together with 21-deoxycortisone (40.7ng/g) and deoxycorticosterone (7.6-14.6ng/g). In serum samples 11-hydroxyandrostenedione (0.35-2.34ng/mL) and 11-hydroxytestosterone (0.18-1.62ng/mL) were the predominant androgens with cortisol (5.8-20.5ng/mL), the predominant glucocorticoid, while corticosterone, 18-hydroxycorticosterone and aldosterone were also detected. These methods can be applied independently to assess either androgens, progestogens, or adrenal steroid panels or in combination to assess the cohort of gonadal and adrenal steroids in faeces and/or serum, in southern white rhinoceros as well as other wildlife species. Analysis would enable the accurate assessment of reproductive health and stress responses while also distinguishing between stress and distress thus contributing to the conservation of wildlife species.

published proceedings

  • J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci

altmetric score

  • 2.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Gent, R., Barbier, I. D., Atkin, S. L., Newell-Fugate, A. E., & Swart, A. C.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Gent, Rachelle||Barbier, Inge D||Atkin, Stephen L||Newell-Fugate, Annie E||Swart, Amanda C

publication date

  • January 2023