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Publication type: Journal Article
Document type: Full Paper

Year: 2010

Author(s): Signer, C; Ruf, T; Schober, F; Fluch, G; Paumann, T; Arnold, W

Title: A versatile telemetry system for continuous measurement of heart rate, body temperature and locomotor activity in free-ranging ruminants.

Source: Methods Ecol Evol. 2010; 1(1):75-85



Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Arnold Walter
Fluch Gerhard
Paumann Thomas
Ruf Thomas
Schober Franz
Signer Claudio

Vetmed Research Units
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology


Abstract:
1. Measuring physiological and behavioural parameters in free-ranging animals - and therefore under fully natural conditions - is of general biological concern but difficult to perform.2. We have developed a minimally invasive telemetry system for ruminants that is capable of measuring heart rate (HR), body temperature (T(b)) and locomotor activity (LA). A ruminal transmitter unit was per os placed into the reticulum and therefore located in close proximity to the heart. The unit detected HR by the use of an acceleration sensor and also measured T(b). HR and T(b) signals were transmitted via short-distance UHF link to a repeater system located in a collar unit. The collar unit decoded and processed signals received from the ruminal unit, measured LA with two different activity sensors and transmitted pulse interval-modulated VHF signals over distances of up to 10 km.3. HR data measured with the new device contained noise caused by reticulum contractions and animal movements that triggered the acceleration sensor in the ruminal unit. We have developed a software filter to remove this noise. Hence, the system was only capable of measuring HR in animals that showed little or no activity and in the absence of rumen contractions. Reliability of this "stationary HR" measurement was confirmed with a second independent measurement of HR detected by an electrocardiogram in a domestic sheep (Ovis aries).4. In addition, we developed an algorithm to correctly classify an animal as "active" or "at rest" during each 3-min interval from the output of the activity sensors. Comparison with direct behavioural observations on free-ranging Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) showed that 87% of intervals were classified correctly.5. First results from applications of this new technique in free-ranging Alpine ibex underlined its suitability for reliable and long-term monitoring of physiological and behavioural parameters in ruminants under harsh field conditions. With the battery settings and measurement cycles used in this study, we achieved a system lifetime of approximately 2 years.


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