Diurnal variation in corticosterone release among wild tropical forest birds

Philipp Schwabl, Elisa Bonaccorso, Wolfgang Goymann

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11 Citas (Scopus)


Background: Glucocorticoids are adrenal steroid hormones essential to homeostatic maintenance. Their daily variation at low concentrations regulates physiology and behavior to sustain proper immunological and metabolic function. Glucocorticoids rise well above these baseline levels during stress to elicit emergency-state responses that increase short-term survival. Despite this essence in managing life processes under both regular and adverse conditions, relationships of glucocorticoid release to environmental and intrinsic factors that vary at daily and seasonal scales are rarely studied in the wild. Methods: This study on 41 passerine species of the Ecuadorian Chocó applied a standardized capture-and-restraint protocol to examine diurnal variation in baseline and stress-related release of corticosterone, the primary avian glucocorticoid. Tests for relationships to relative body mass, hemoglobin concentration, molt status and date complemented this evaluation of the time of day effect on corticosterone secretion in free-living tropical rainforest birds. Analyses were also partitioned by sex as well as performed separately on two common species, the wedge-billed woodcreeper and olive-striped flycatcher. Results: Interspecific analyses indicated maximum baseline corticosterone levels at the onset of the active phase and reductions thereafter. Stress-related levels did not correspond to time of day but accompanied baseline reductions during molt and elevations in birds sampled later during the September - November study period. Baseline corticosterone related negatively to hemoglobin in the wedge-billed woodcreeper and stress-related levels increased with body mass in the olive-striped flycatcher. There were no substantial sex-related differences. Conclusions: The results of this study suggest a diurnal rhythmicity in baseline corticosterone release so robust as to emerge in pooled analyses across a highly variable dataset. While this detection in nature is singular, correspondent patterns have been demonstrated outside of the tropics in captive model species. Congruity in daily rhythms and links to physiological and life-history state across disparate taxa and environments may promote the yet unresolved utility of corticosterone release as a global metric for population health. However, certain results of this study also deviate from laboratory and field research at higher latitudes, cautioning generalization. Environmental distinctions such as high productivity and tempered seasonality may precipitate unique life-history strategies and underlying hormonal mechanisms in tropical rainforest birds.

Idioma originalInglés
Número de artículo19
PublicaciónFrontiers in Zoology
EstadoPublicada - 4 may. 2016
Publicado de forma externa


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