Non-human vertebrate blood is commonly collected and assayed for a variety of applications, including veterinary diagnostics and physiological research. Small, often non-lethal samples enable the assessment and monitoring of the physiological state and health of the individual. Traditionally, studies that rely on blood physiology have focused on captive animals or, in studies conducted in remote settings, have required the preservation and transport of samples for later analysis. In either situation, large, laboratory-bound equipment and traditional assays and analytical protocols are required. The use of point-of- care (POC) devices to measure various secondary blood physiological parameters, such as metabolites, blood gases and ions, has become increasingly popular recently, due to immediate results and their portability, which allows the freedom to study organisms in the wild. Here, we review the current uses of POC devices and their applicability to basic and applied studies on a variety of non-domesticated species. We located 79 individual studies that focused on non-domesticated vertebrates, including validation and application of POC tools. Studies focused on a wide spectrum of taxa, including mammals, birds and herptiles, although the majority of studies focused on fish, and typical variables measured included blood glucose, lactate and pH. We found that calibrations for species-specific blood physiology values are necessary, because ranges can vary within and among taxa and are sometimes outside the measurable range of the devices. In addition, although POC devices are portable and robust, most require durable cases, they are seldom waterproof/water-resistant, and factors such as humidity and temperature can affect the performance of the device. Overall, most studies concluded that POC devices are suitable alternatives to traditional laboratory devices and eliminate the need for transport of samples; however, there is a need for greater emphasis on rigorous calibration and validation of these units and appreciation of their limitations.

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Keywords Biomarkers, Field physiology, Hand-held blood analyser, Non-domestic, Validation
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Journal Conservation Physiology
Stoot, L.J. (Lauren J.), Cairns, N.A. (Nicholas A.), Cull, F. (Felicia), Taylor, J.J. (Jessica J.), Jeffrey, J.D. (Jennifer D.), Morin, F. (Félix), … Cooke, S.J. (2014). Use of portable blood physiology point-of-care devices for basic and applied research on vertebrates: A review. Conservation Physiology (Vol. 2). doi:10.1093/conphys/cou011