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Monday, 13 October 2014

Assessing barriers to breeding wild animals in captivity: European Starling study 2014.

Stress, captivity, and reproduction in a wild bird species.


Dickens MJ-1, Bentley GE-2.

Author information
1-Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, USA. Electronic address:
2-Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, USA; Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, USA.

Horm Behav. 2014 Sep 23;66(4):685-693. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2014.09.011. [Epub ahead of print]

In seasonal species, glucocorticoid concentrations are often highest during the breeding season. However, the role of increased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity in the regulation of reproduction remains poorly understood. Our study is the first, to our knowledge, to document reproductive consequences of a non-pharmacological hindrance to seasonal HPA fluctuations. Using wild-caught male and female European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) housed in an outdoor, semi-natural environment, we divided birds into two mixed-sex groups. One group remained in the outdoor aviary, where starlings breed at the appropriate time of year. The other group was transferred into an indoor flight aviary, where we predicted reproductive suppression to occur. We measured changes in corticosterone (CORT) at baseline and stress-induced concentrations prior to group separation and at the experiment's conclusion. After ten days, the birds showed remarkable differences in breeding behavior and HPA activity. Outdoor birds exhibited increases in baseline and stress-induced CORT and progressed into active breeding (pairing, nest building, egg laying, etc.). In contrast, indoor birds displayed no change in baseline or stress-induced CORT and few signs of active breeding. We found significant sex and treatment effects on expression of HPA and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis elements, suggesting sex-specific regulatory mechanisms. Our data suggest a novel, facilitating role for the HPA axis in the transition between early breeding and active breeding in a wild, seasonal avian species. In addition, understanding how changes in housing condition affect seasonal HPA fluctuations may help alleviate barriers to breeding wild animals in captivity.
Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Inc.

Captivity; Corticosterone; Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis; Hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis; Seasonality

PMID: 25257808 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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