Chronic stress in free-living European starlings reduces corticosterone concentrations and reproductive success

Department of Biology, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA.
General and Comparative Endocrinology (Impact Factor: 2.47). 04/2007; 151(1):82-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2006.12.003
Source: PubMed


Chronic increases in stress hormones such as glucocorticoids are maladaptive, yet studies demonstrating a causal relationship among chronic stress, increases in glucocorticoid concentrations, and subsequent fitness costs in free-living animals are lacking. We experimentally induced chronic psychological stress in female European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) by subjecting half of the females at our study site to a chronic stress protocol consisting of 4, 30 min stressors (loud radio, predator calls, a novel object, or predator decoys including a snake, rat, and owl) administered in random order daily for 8 days after clutch completion. Experimental females were captured at the end of the chronic stress protocol (9 days after the onset of the chronic stress protocol), and unstressed control females were captured at the same stage of the nesting cycle. Chronically stressed females had lower baseline corticosterone (CORT, the avian glucocorticoid) concentrations and lower reproductive success than unstressed females. Furthermore, surviving nestlings in experimentally stressed broods showed sensitization of the CORT response to acute stress, which is a physiological change that could persist to adulthood. Attenuation of baseline CORT concentrations in adult females is contrary to the general assumption that elevated CORT concentrations indicate stress, suggesting that more research is necessary before CORT concentrations can be used to accurately assess chronic stress in field studies.

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    • "Livetrapping also has allowed the endocrine stress response to be linked to individual fitness and survival in many taxa (e.g., Wingfield et al. 1997; Cyr and Romero 2007), and long-term exposure to high levels of glucocorticoids (GCs) can correlate negatively with fitness (e.g., Sapolsky et al. 2000; Romero and Wikelski 2001, 2010). In addition, conservation biologists have begun using livetrapping to measure GCs in the field as an index of wild animal population health in response to human disruption and environmental change (Wingfield et al. 1997; Homan et al. 2003; Wingfield et al. 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: While livetrapping is a vital field research tool, it is not a completely unbiased method of sampling. Biased trapping arises during field endocrinological studies whenever hormone levels or response influence the probability of capture of a subject. We repeatedly captured wild, free-living adult degus (Octodon degus) from the same location over 12 days to determine whether individuals with a certain endocrine stress profile were more likely to be captured repeatedly than others. We measured baseline cortisol (CORT), stress-induced CORT, and negative feedback efficacy via a dexamethasone suppression test in adult male and lactating and nonlactating female degus upon initial capture. We successfully recaptured approximately half of the degus. None of the 3 indices of the stress response at initial capture predicted whether a degu would be recaptured. However, baseline CORT levels at 1st capture had a weak, negative relationship with the number of days between 1st and 2nd capture. Because most animals interpret capture and restraint as an acute stressor, we also analyzed the effect of recapture on the endocrine stress response. Baseline and stress-induced CORT concentrations were measured upon each subsequent recapture for up to 5 total captures. Upon subsequent recaptures, neither stress-induced CORT nor baseline CORT changed significantly. Additionally, individual stress-induced and baseline CORT titers were repeatable within our sample population. These findings suggest that livetrapping does not select for animals with certain endocrine stress profiles, and that degus fail to habituate to repeated capture and restraint stress.
    Journal of Mammalogy 08/2015; 96(4). DOI:10.1093/jmammal/gyv081 · 1.84 Impact Factor
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    • "In songbirds, while a great deal of work has focused on the dynamics of sex-steroid availability to discrete neural circuits (see citations above), fewer studies have examined the nature of neural corticosterone (CORT) neurobiology and physiology. This is surprising, given the large amount of research devoted to understanding stress physiology, including the effects of chronic stress on CORT secretion (e.g., Cyr and Romero, 2007; Rich and Romero, 2005), behavioral effects of CORT (e.g., Breuner et al., 1998; Breuner and Wingfield, 2000; Busch et al., 2008; Loiseau et al., 2008; Pravosudov, 2003; Saldanha et al., 2000; Schoech et al., 2007, 2012; Spencer and Verhulst, 2007; Wada and Breuner, 2008), the role of developmental stress in the programming of the HPA axis (Crino et al., 2014; Schoech et al., 2011; Spencer et al., 2009), and the potential fitness consequences of glucocorticoid secretion over the lifespan of the individual (Bonier et al., 2009; Breuner et al., 2008; Brown et al., 2005; Cyr and Romero, 2007; Ouyang et al., 0016-6480/Ó 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. "
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    ABSTRACT: Songbirds exhibit significant adult neuroplasticity that, together with other neural specializations, makes them an important model system for neurobiological studies. A large body of work also points to the songbird brain as a significant target of steroid hormones, including corticosterone (CORT), the primary avian glucocorticoid. Whereas CORT positively signals the brain for many functions, excess CORT may interfere with natural neuroplasticity. Consequently, mechanisms may exist to locally regulate CORT levels in brain to ensure optimal concentrations. However, most studies in songbirds measure plasma CORT as a proxy for levels at target tissues. In this paper, we review literature concerning circulating CORT and its effects on behavior in songbirds, and discuss recent work suggesting that brain CORT levels are regulated independently of changes in adrenal secretion. We review possible mechanisms for CORT regulation in the avian brain, including corticosteroid-binding globulins, p-glycoprotein activity in the blood-brain-barrier, and CORT metabolism by the 11β hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases. Data supporting a role for CORT regulation within the songbird brain have only recently begun to emerge, suggesting that this is an avenue for important future research. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    General and Comparative Endocrinology 06/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.ygcen.2015.06.010 · 2.47 Impact Factor
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    • "Indeed , through the perception of repeated negative events , also called stressors , chronic stress can disrupt homoeostasis and induce physiological and behavioural alterations ( Cyr and Romero , 2007 ) . These behavioural modifications might be the first way animals cope with environmental challenges ( Keeling and Jensen , 2009 ) . "
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    ABSTRACT: Animals perceiving repeated aversive events can become chronically stressed. Chronic activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis can have deleterious consequences on physiological parameters (e.g. BW, blood chemistry) and behaviour (e.g. emotional reactivity, stereotypies, cognition). Environmental enrichment (EE) can be a mean to reduce animal stress and to improve welfare. The aim of this study was first, to assess the effects of EE in battery cages on the behaviour of young Japanese quail and second, to evaluate the impact of EE on quail exposed to chronic stress. The experiment involved quail housed in EE cages and submitted or not to a chronic stress procedure (CSP) (EE cages, control quail: n=16, CSP quail: n=14) and quail housed in standard cages and exposed or not to the CSP (standard non-EE cages, control quail: n=12, CSP quail: n=16). Our procedure consisted of repeated aversive events (e.g. ventilators, delaying access to food, physical restraint, noise) presented two to five times per 24 h, randomly, for 15 days. During CSP, EE improved quail's welfare as their stereotypic pacing decreased and they rested more. CSP decreased exploration in all quail. After the end of CSP, quail presented increased emotional reactivity in emergence test. However, the effect of EE varied with test. Finally, chronic stress effects on comfort behaviours in the emergence test were alleviated by EE. These results indicate that EE can alleviate some aspects of behavioural alterations induced by CSP.
    animal 10/2014; 9(02):1-8. DOI:10.1017/S1751731114002523 · 1.84 Impact Factor
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