Manganese Exacerbates Seasonal Health Declines in a Suicidally Breeding Mammal

Ami F. Amir Abdul Nasir, Amanda C. Niehaus, Skye F. Cameron, Beata Ujvari, Thomas Madsen, Frank A. von Hippel, Sisi Gao, Danielle M. Dillon, C. Loren Buck, Jordan Charters, Jaime Heiniger, Simone Blomberg, Robbie S. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reproductive costs must be balanced with survival to maximize lifetime reproductive rates; however, some organisms invest in a single, suicidal bout of breeding known as semelparity. The northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) is an endangered marsupial in which males, but not females, are semelparous. Northern quolls living near mining sites on Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory, Australia, accumulate manganese (Mn) in their brains, testes, and hair, and elevated Mn impacts motor performance. Whether Mn is associated with other health declines is yet unknown. In the present study we show that male and female northern quolls with higher Mn accumulation had a 20% reduction in immune function and a trend toward reduced cortisol concentrations in hair. The telomere lengths of male quolls did not change pre- to postbreeding, but those with higher Mn levels had longer telomeres; in contrast, the telomeres of females shortened during the breeding season but recovered between the first year and second year of breeding. In addition, the telomeres of quolls that were recaptured declined at significantly higher rates in quolls with higher Mn between prebreeding, breeding, and/or postbreeding seasons. Future research should determine whether changes in cortisol, immune function, or telomere length affect reproductive output or survival—particularly for semelparous males. Environ Toxicol Chem 2024;43:74–86.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-86
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Aging
  • Analytical toxicology
  • Dasyurid
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Environmental toxicology
  • Heavy metals
  • Immunotoxicity
  • Semelparity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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