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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2008 Jul-Aug;81(4):452-62. doi: 10.1086/589547.

Increased energy expenditure but decreased stress responsiveness during molt.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts 02155, USA.


Baseline and stress-induced corticosterone (CORT), heart rate (fH), and energy expenditure were measured in eight captive European starlings Sturnus vulgaris during and following a prebasic molt. The fH and oxygen consumption (V O2 ) were measured simultaneously across a range of heart rates, and energy expenditure (kJ/d) was then calculated from data. Energy expenditure and fH were strongly and positively correlated in each individual. Baseline fH and energy expenditure were significantly higher during molt. Molting starlings expended 32% more energy over 24 h than nonmolting birds, with the most significant increase (60%) occurring at night, indicating a substantial energetic cost to molt. Furthermore, the cardiac and metabolic responses to stress during molt were different than during nonmolt. Birds were subjected to four different 30-min acute stressors. The fH and CORT responses to these stressors were generally lower during molt. Although restraint caused a 64% increase in daily energy expenditure during nonmolt, no other stressor caused a significant increase in energy expenditure. Overall, our data suggest that molt is not only energetically expensive but that it also alters multiple stress response pathways. Furthermore, most acute stressors do not appear to require a significant increase in energy expenditure.

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