97 research outputs found


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    Adrenocortical Response to Stress and Thyroid Hormone Status in Free-Living Nestling White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) Exposed to Heavy Metal and Arsenic Contamination

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    BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: Endocrine parameters have proven useful in the detection of early or low-level responses to pollutants. Although most of the studies on endocrine modulation have been focused on processes involving gonadal steroids, contaminants may target other parts of the endocrine system as well. In this study we examined the adrenocortical stress response and thyroid hormone status in free-living nestling white storks (Ciconia ciconia) in relation to heavy metals (zinc, lead, copper, cadmium) and arsenic levels in blood. METHODS: Fieldwork was conducted in an area polluted by the Aznalcóllar mine accident (southwestern Spain) and in a reference site. We used a standardized capture, handling, and restraint protocol to determine both baseline and maximum plasma corticosterone. Circulating levels of thyroxine (T(4)) and triiodothyronine (T(3)) were also measured. RESULTS: No effects of metals or As were found on baseline corticosterone, but maximum levels of corticosterone were positively related to Pb in both locations. This relationship was stronger in single nestlings than in birds from multiple-chick broods, which suggests a greater impact of Pb on more stressed individuals. Metal pollution did not affect plasma T(4) or T(3) levels, although thyroid status differed with location. CONCLUSIONS: Because a compromised hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) function can have far-reaching consequences in terms of altered behavioral and metabolic processes necessary for survival, our results suggest that birds exposed to sublethal Pb levels may be at risk through an altered adrenocortical stress response, and further support the idea that HPA axis-related end points might be useful indicators of metal exposure and potential toxicity in wild animals

    Effects of dietary PCB exposure on adrenocortical function in captive American Kestrels (Falco sparverius)

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    We experimentally examined the effects of dietary exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on adrenocortical function in American kestrels (Falco sparverius). Nine captive male American kestrels previously exposed to a PCB mixture (Aroclor™1248:1254:1260; 1:1:1) in their diet were subjected to a standardized capture, handling and restraint protocol designed to produce an increase in circulating corticosterone. A similar protocol has been applied to a wide range of avian species and was used here to evaluate the response of PCB-exposed and control kestrels to a defined physical stressor. Both baseline and stress-induced corticosterone levels were significantly lower in PCB-exposed birds when compared with control birds of the same age. PCB-exposed birds exhibited significantly lower corticosterone levels during the corticosterone response when compared with control birds, independent of body condition. Furthermore, baseline corticosterone concentrations exhibited a hormetic response characterized by an inverted U-shaped dose response in relation to total PCB liver burden, These results support several recent studies which report decreased levels of circulating corticosterone in PCB-exposed wild birds. The results presented here provide the first evidence that exposure to an environmentally relevant level of PCBs (approximately 10 mg/kg body weight) can impair the corticosterone stress response in kestrels, potentially increasing the susceptibility of birds to environmental stressors such as severe weather and predatory and human disturbance

    Feather corticosterone reveals effect of moulting conditions in the autumn on subsequent reproductive output and survival in an Arctic migratory bird

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    For birds, unpredictable environments during the energetically stressful times of moulting and breeding are expected to have negative fitness effects. Detecting those effects however, might be difficult if individuals modulate their physiology and/or behaviours in ways to minimize short-term fitness costs. Corticosterone in feathers (CORTf) is thought to provide information on total baseline and stress-induced CORT levels at moulting and is an integrated measure of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity during the time feathers are grown.We predicted that CORTf levels in northern common eider females would relate to subsequent body condition, reproductive success and survival, in a population of eiders nesting in the eastern Canadian Arctic during a capricious period marked by annual avian cholera outbreaks. We collected CORTf data fromfeathers grown during previousmoult in autumn and data on phenology of subsequent reproduction and survival for 242 eider females over 5 years. Using path analyses,we detected a direct relationship between CORTf and arrival date and body condition the following year. CORTf also had negative indirect relationships with both eider reproductive success and survival of eiders during an avian cholera outbreak. This indirect effect was dramatic with a reduction of approximately 30% in subsequent survival of eiders during an avian cholera outbreak when mean CORTf increased by 1 standard deviation. This study highlights the importance of events or processes occurring during moult on subsequent expression of life-history traits and relation to individual fitness, and shows that information from non-destructive sampling of individuals can track carry-over effects across seasons

    Does Environmental Enrichment Reduce Stress? An Integrated Measure of Corticosterone from Feathers Provides a Novel Perspective

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    Enrichment is widely used as tool for managing fearfulness, undesirable behaviors, and stress in captive animals, and for studying exploration and personality. Inconsistencies in previous studies of physiological and behavioral responses to enrichment led us to hypothesize that enrichment and its removal are stressful environmental changes to which the hormone corticosterone and fearfulness, activity, and exploration behaviors ought to be sensitive. We conducted two experiments with a captive population of wild-caught Clark's nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana) to assess responses to short- (10-d) and long-term (3-mo) enrichment, their removal, and the influence of novelty, within the same animal. Variation in an integrated measure of corticosterone from feathers, combined with video recordings of behaviors, suggests that how individuals perceive enrichment and its removal depends on the duration of exposure. Short- and long-term enrichment elicited different physiological responses, with the former acting as a stressor and birds exhibiting acclimation to the latter. Non-novel enrichment evoked the strongest corticosterone responses of all the treatments, suggesting that the second exposure to the same objects acted as a physiological cue, and that acclimation was overridden by negative past experience. Birds showed weak behavioral responses that were not related to corticosterone. By demonstrating that an integrated measure of glucocorticoid physiology varies significantly with changes to enrichment in the absence of agonistic interactions, our study sheds light on potential mechanisms driving physiological and behavioral responses to environmental change

    Low Skilled Immigration and the Expansion of Private Schools

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    Effect of Nest-box Size on Nest-site Preference and Reproduction in American Kestrels

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    Tracking stress: localisation, deposition and stability of corticosterone in feathers

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    How animals cope with stressors is an important determinant of their well being and fitness. Understanding what environmental perturbations are perceived as stressors, and quantifying how they are responded to, how often they occur and the negative consequences of exposure to glucocorticoids, has been problematic and limited to short-term physiological measures. By contrast, the quantification of corticosterone (CORT) in feathers represents a long-term, integrated measure of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal activity. In the present study, we show that by understanding how the hormone is deposited in feathers, in combination with specific sampling protocols, one can identify localised patterns of CORT deposition that reveal different temporal patterns of a bird’s response to stressors. CORT in feathers appears to be stable over time, is resistant to heat exposure and is useful in determining both the overall exposure of the bird to the hormone over days or weeks, as well as identifying discrete, punctuated, stressful events. Variation in feather CORT can also be examined among individuals of a population at one point in time, as well as over years by using museum specimens. The ability to track stress over time allows for new questions to be asked about the health and ecology of birds and their environment.Peer reviewe