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J Exp Zool. 2002 Jun 15;293(1):81-8.

An experimental test of the relationship between temporal variability of feeding opportunities and baseline levels of corticosterone in a shorebird.

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Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands.


In this study, we tested the hypothesis that baseline corticosterone levels increase with a change from constant to variable feeding schedules. Captive red knots, Calidris canutus, were presented with food that was either available during the same time each day (constant) or starting at variable times during the day. Food intake rates, frequency of aggressive interactions, and baseline levels of corticosterone were measured. In the majority of cases, red knots showed higher plasma corticosterone concentrations during feeding schedules that were irregular than when food was available at consistent times. These findings are supported by a previous study that showed that red knots take a long time to adjust to the newly offered, predictable conditions of their aviary environment. The frequency of conflicts in the different groups and (size-corrected) body mass were not correlated with average corticosterone level. The results are examined in the light of literature showing that increases in corticosterone in response to acute, unpredictable events mediate behavioral responses such as increased explorative behavior and memory. For red knots that have to find their food on the temperate-zone mudflats in Western Europe, an increased circulating corticosterone level may be adaptive during periods when the patchily distribution of buried bivalves and the burying behavior of such prey presents them with a variable and unpredictable food supply.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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