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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2022
  2. Cooke, Steven (Ed.)
    Abstract Wild animals brought into captivity frequently experience chronic stress and typically need a period of time to adjust to the conditions of captivity (restraint, artificial lighting, altered diet, human presence, etc.), to which they may never fully acclimate. Changes in mass, the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and heart rate parameters have been observed over the first week in newly captive house sparrows (Passer domesticus). In this study, we tested the effects of two drugs, diazepam and mitotane, in preventing the chronic stress symptoms caused by captivity, compared with oil-injected control animals. Diazepam is an anxiolytic that is widely prescribed in humansmore »and other animals and has been shown in some cases to reduce physiological stress. Mitotane is an agent that causes chemical adrenalectomy, reducing the body’s capacity to produce glucocorticoid hormones. Our mitotane treatment did not cause the expected change in corticosterone concentrations. Baseline corticosterone was higher after a week in captivity regardless of the treatment group, while stress-induced corticosterone did not significantly increase above baseline after a week in captivity in any treatment group. However, mitotane treatment did have some physiological effects, as it reduced the resting heart rate and the duration of the heart rate response to a sudden noise. It also prevented the increase in nighttime activity that we observed in control animals. There was no effect of diazepam on corticosterone, resting heart rate, activity or heart rate response to a sudden noise, and no effect of either treatment on the sympathetic vs parasympathetic control of the resting heart rate. Together, these data suggest that mitotane, but not diazepam, can have a modest impact on helping house sparrows adapt to captive conditions. Easing the transition to captivity will likely make conservation efforts, such as initiating captive breeding programs, more successful.« less
  3. Abstract

    ‘The Blob’, a mass of anomalously warm water in the Northeast Pacific Ocean peaking from 2014 to 2016, caused a decrease in primary productivity with cascading effects on the marine ecosystem. Among the more obvious manifestations of the event were seabird breeding failures and mass mortality events. Here, we used corticosterone in breast feathers (fCort), grown in the winter period during migration, as an indicator of nutritional stress to investigate the impact of the Blob on two sentinel Pacific auk species (family Alcidae). Feathers were collected from breeding females over 8 years from 2010 to 2017, encompassing the Blob period.more »Since Pacific auks replace body feathers at sea during the migratory period, measures of fCort provide an accumulated measure of nutritional stress or allostatic load during this time. Changes in diet were also measured using δ15N and δ13C values from feathers. Relative to years prior to the Blob, the primarily zooplanktivorous Cassin’s auklets (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) had elevated fCort in 2014–2017, which correlated with the occurrence of the Blob and a recovery period afterwards, with relatively stable feather isotope values. In contrast, generalist rhinoceros auklets (Cerorhinca monocerata) displayed stable fCort values across years and increased δ15N values during the Blob. As marine heatwaves increase in intensity and frequency due to climate change, this study provides insight into the variable response of Pacific auks to such phenomena and suggests a means for monitoring population-level responses to climatological variation.

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  4. Cooke, Steven (Ed.)
    Abstract Physiological metrics are becoming popular tools for assessing individual condition and population health to inform wildlife management and conservation decisions. Corticosterone assays can provide information on how animals cope with individual and habitat-level stressors, and the recent development of feather assays is an exciting innovation that could yield important insights for conservation of wild birds. Due to the widespread enthusiasm for feather corticosterone as a potential bioindicator, studies are needed to assess the ability of this technique to detect meaningful differences in physiological stress across a variety of stressor types and intensities. We examined feather corticosterone from 144 individualsmore »among the 13 known breeding populations of Hawaiian gallinule (Gallinula galeata sandvicensis), an endangered waterbird, on the island of O‘ahu. These ecologically independent subpopulations are known to have low genetic connectivity and movement rates and differ largely across a number of important conditions, including level of predator management, human disturbance, proximity to urban development and conspecific population density. This system is well suited for assessing the performance of feather corticosterone as a bioindicator of different known habitat-level threats common to this and many other conservation-reliant species. We found no statistically significant relationship between feather corticosterone and level of predator control, level of human disturbance, gallinule population density, percent urban cover or body condition across all sites despite the substantial difference in stressor magnitude in our dataset. We did find that gallinules in habitats with larger population densities were in worse body condition. These findings suggest that feather corticosterone is not a consistent indicator of anthropogenic impacts on populations. Furthermore, they suggest that feather corticosterone may be a poor bioindicator of known habitat-level threats for Hawaiian gallinules and that it should be used with caution in other avian taxa of conservation concern.« less