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Physiol Behav. 2004 Oct 15;82(5):905-12.

Shy and bold great tits (Parus major): body temperature and breath rate in response to handling stress.

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Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.


A standard handling protocol was used to test the hypothesis that boldness predicts stress responsiveness in body temperature and breath rate. Great tit (Parus major) nestlings were taken from the field, hand reared until independence, and their response to a novel object was assessed. At the age of 6 months, during the active phase (daytime), body temperature was recorded and breath rate was counted immediately after capture and after 5 min of quiet rest in a bag. A second group of birds of two lines bidirectionally selected for the same trait was tested during the inactive phase (nighttime). During the active phase, body temperature and breath rate were higher in the first than in the second measurement. In the second measurement, shy individuals showed higher body temperature than bold individuals. In the inactive phase, values of both parameters were lower than in the active phase. Body temperature was lower in the first measurement than in the second measurement and no line difference emerged. Breath rate was higher in shy than in bold individuals and did not differ between the two measurements. Females had higher body temperatures than males, probably due to their lower weight, because body temperature was negatively correlated with body mass. The results indicate that body temperature and breath rate are indicators of acute stress in songbirds and that differences in personality traits during the juvenile phase are reflected in differential stress responsiveness later in life.

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