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  1. Synopsis

    Comparative analyses in biology rely on the quality of available data. Methodological differences among studies may introduce variation in results that obscure patterns. In the field of eco-immunology, functional immune assays such as antimicrobial capacity assays are widely used for among-species applications. Sample storage time and animal handling time can influence assay results in some species, but how sample holding time prior to freezing influences assay results is unknown. Sample holding time can vary widely in field studies on wild animals, prompting the need to understand the implications of such variation on assay results. We investigated the hypothesis that sample holding time prior to freezing influences assay results in six species (Leiocephalus carinatus, Iguana iguana, Loxodonta africana, Ceratotherium simum, Columba livia, and Buteo swainsoni) by comparing antibacterial capacity of serum with varying processing times prior to snap-freezing. Blood was collected once from each individual and aliquots were placed on ice and assigned different holding times (0, 30, 60, 180, and 240 min), after which each sample was centrifuged, then serum was separated and snap-frozen on dry ice and stored at −80ºC for 60 days prior to assaying. For each aliquot, we conducted antibacterial capacity assays with serial dilutions ofmore »serum inoculated with E. coli and extracted the dilution at 50% antibacterial capacity for analysis. We found a decrease in antibacterial capacity with increased holding time in one of the six species tested (B. swainsoni), driven in part by complete loss of antibacterial capacity in some individuals at the 240-min time point. While the majority of species’ antibacterial capacity were not affected, our results demonstrate the need to conduct pilot assays spanning the anticipated variation in sample holding times to develop appropriate field protocols.

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