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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 11;6(3):e17663. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017663.

Does environmental enrichment reduce stress? An integrated measure of corticosterone from feathers provides a novel perspective.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. graham.fairhurst@usask.ca

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2011;6(3). doi: 10.1371/annotation/3ac615cc-2ecf-4d3e-9281-3b9b9b04cf08.

Abstract

Enrichment is widely used as tool for managing fearfulness, undesirable behaviors, and stress in captive animals, and for studying exploration and personality. Inconsistencies in previous studies of physiological and behavioral responses to enrichment led us to hypothesize that enrichment and its removal are stressful environmental changes to which the hormone corticosterone and fearfulness, activity, and exploration behaviors ought to be sensitive. We conducted two experiments with a captive population of wild-caught Clark's nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana) to assess responses to short- (10-d) and long-term (3-mo) enrichment, their removal, and the influence of novelty, within the same animal. Variation in an integrated measure of corticosterone from feathers, combined with video recordings of behaviors, suggests that how individuals perceive enrichment and its removal depends on the duration of exposure. Short- and long-term enrichment elicited different physiological responses, with the former acting as a stressor and birds exhibiting acclimation to the latter. Non-novel enrichment evoked the strongest corticosterone responses of all the treatments, suggesting that the second exposure to the same objects acted as a physiological cue, and that acclimation was overridden by negative past experience. Birds showed weak behavioral responses that were not related to corticosterone. By demonstrating that an integrated measure of glucocorticoid physiology varies significantly with changes to enrichment in the absence of agonistic interactions, our study sheds light on potential mechanisms driving physiological and behavioral responses to environmental change.

PMID:
21412426
PMCID:
PMC3055884
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0017663
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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