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J Exp Biol. 2018 Oct 11;221(Pt 19). pii: jeb173864. doi: 10.1242/jeb.173864.

Corticosterone implants produce stress-hyporesponsive birds.

Author information

1
Departamento de Biología de la Conservación, Estación Biológica de Doñana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), 41092 Seville, Spain fernantor1@gmail.com julioblas@ebd.csic.es.
2
Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, S7N 5E2.
3
Departamento de Biología de la Conservación, Estación Biológica de Doñana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), 41092 Seville, Spain.
4
Department of Migration and Immuno-Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, 78315 Radolfzell, Germany.
5
Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Universitätsstrasse 10, 78464 Konstanz, Germany.
6
Department of Biology, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA.
7
Evolutionary Physiology Group. Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Eberhard-Gwinner-Str., 82319 Seewiesen, Germany.
8
Departamento de Sistemas Físicos, Químicos y Naturales, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, 41013 Seville, Spain.

Abstract

In birds, the use of corticosterone (Cort) implants is a frequent tool aimed at simulating systemic elevations of this hormone and studying effects on biological traits (e.g. physiology, morphology, behavior). This manipulation may alter adrenocortical function, potentially changing both baseline (CortBAS) and stress-induced (CortSTRESS) plasma Cort levels. However, implant effects on the latter trait are rarely measured, disregarding downstream consequences of potentially altered stress responses. Here, we analyzed the effects of Cort implants on both CortBAS and CortSTRESS in nestling and adult European white storks, Ciconia ciconia In addition, we performed a review of 50 studies using Cort implants in birds during the last two decades to contextualize stork results, assess researchers' patterns of use and infer current study biases. High and low doses of Cort implants resulted in a decrease of both CortBAS (31-71% below controls) and CortSTRESS (63-79% below controls) in storks. Our literature review revealed that CortBAS generally increases (72% of experiments) whereas CortSTRESS decreases (78% of experiments) following implant treatment in birds. Our results challenge and expand the prevailing assumption that Cort implants increase circulating CortBAS levels because: (i) CortBAS levels show a quadratic association with implant dose across bird species, and decreased levels may occur at both high and low implant doses, and (ii) Cort implants also decrease CortSTRESS levels, thus producing stress-hyporesponsive phenotypes. It is time to work towards a better understanding of the effects of Cort implants on adrenocortical function, before addressing downstream links to variation in other biological traits.

KEYWORDS:

Adrenocortical function; Ciconia ciconia; Cort; Dose–response; Phenotypic engineering; Stress response

PMID:
30111557
DOI:
10.1242/jeb.173864
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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