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Title: Flexibility underlies differences in mitochondrial respiratory performance between migratory and non-migratory White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Migration is one of the most energy-demanding behaviors observed in birds. Mitochondria are the primary source of energy used to support these long-distance movements, yet how mitochondria meet the energetic demands of migration is scarcely studied. We quantified changes in mitochondrial respiratory performance in the White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), which has a migratory and non-migratory subspecies. We hypothesized that the long-distance migratory Gambel’s subspecies (Z. l. gambelii) would show higher mitochondrial respiratory performance compared to the non-migratory Nuttall’s subspecies (Z. l. nuttalli). We sampled Gambel’s individuals during spring pre-migration, active fall migration, and a period with no migration or breeding (winter). We sampled Nuttall’s individuals during periods coinciding with fall migration and the winter period of Gambel’s annual cycle. Overall, Gambel’s individuals had higher citrate synthase, a proxy for mitochondrial volume, than Nuttall’s individuals. This was most pronounced prior to and during migration. We found that both OXPHOS capacity (state 3) and basal respiration (state 4) of mitochondria exhibit high seasonal flexibility within Gambel’s individuals, with values highest during active migration. These values in Nuttall’s individuals were most similar to Gambel’s individuals in winter. Our observations indicate that seasonal changes in mitochondrial respiration play a vital role in migration energetics.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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