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Corticosterone in shed skin, as biomarker for chronic stress in snakes

StressChron Framework:

Project code 086
Role Co-coordinator
Research area Contributing to a more sustainable and animal welfare minded food production
Research topic Improving our understanding of the impact of anthropogenic activities on the health status of vertebrates in the wild
Vertebrate Reptile
Species Smooth snake (Coronella Austriaca), grass snake (Natrix Natrix), viper (Vipera Berus)


The research goal is the development of an ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) method for quantifying a glucocorticoid profile, as seen in reptiles, in shed skin of snakes in an EN ISO/IEC 17025 regulated environment and analytical validation according the requirements of the Commission Decision No. 2002/657/EC. Biological validation is done by assessing the glucocorticoid profile using UPLC-MS/MS in > 200 shed skin samples representing different species, ages, environments, etc. from snakes in captivity as well as from wildlife. Hereby, the focus lies on smooth snake (Coronella Austriaca), grass snake (Natrix Natrix), viper (Vipera Berus), however, also species commonly kept in captivity are tested.


Keywords: wildlife, reptile, snake, anthropogenic, stress, corticosterone, shed skin

Funding: Internal

Status: On-going


Ghent University (Aerts J, Martel A, Pasmans F)

Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Aerts J)


Dennis D. Master thesis: Development and validation of a UPLC-MS/MS method for quantification of corticosterone in snake skin as biomarker for chronic stress in reptiles. Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium, 2016.

Van Waeyenberghe J. Master thesis: Chronic stress: in snakes: smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), grass snake (Natrix natrix) and viper (Vipera berus). Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium, 2017.

Van Waeyenberge J, Aerts J, Hellebuyck T, Pasmans F, Martel A. Stress in wild and captive snakes: quantification, effects and the importance of management. Vlaams Diergeneeskundig Tijdschrift 2018; 87:59-65.

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