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Adrenocortical Responses to Stress and Their Modulation in Free‐Living Vertebrates

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Abstract

The sections in this article are:

1 Labile (Transient) Perturbation Factors
2 The Emergency Life History Stage
3 Comparative Hormone Responses to Classical Stressors
3.1 Actions of Adrenal Hormones During Stress
3.2 Regulation of the Emergency Life History Stage by Glucocorticosteroids
4 Examples of the Emergency Life History Stage in Nature
4.1 Severe Storms and Interruption of Breeding
4.2 Snow and Ground‐Feeding Birds
4.3 Storms and Oceanic Birds
4.4 Intraspecific Competition
4.5 Human Disturbance and Pollution
4.6 A Case for Glucocorticosteroids as Mediators of the Emergency Life History Stage
5 Facultative Metamorphosis
5.1 Desiccation and Metamorphosis in Amphibians
6 Semelparity and Programmed Death—Role of Glucocorticosteroids
6.1 Fish
6.2 Dasyurid Marsupials
7 Modulation of Adrenocortical Responses to Labile Perturbation Factors (Including Stress)
7.1 The Capture Stress Protocol
7.2 Variation Among and Within Populations Across Seasons
7.3 Facultative Variation Within a Population
7.4 Individual Variation Within a Population and Season
7.5 Variation in Physiological and Behavioral Responses to Elevated Levels of Glucocorticosteroids
8 Conclusion
Figure 1. Figure 1.

Representation of a simplified series of life history stages for a typical bird. Note that each stage is characterized by its unique physiology, morphology, and behavior. Each stage also has a unique subset of substages that can be expressed in a number of combinations to give physiological state at any point in time . The life history stages are expressed on a predictable schedule regulated by environmental cues such as the annual photocycle. There is also an emergency life history stage (ELHS) that can be triggered from any normal life history stage by unpredictable direct labile perturbation factors (LPFs) in the environment . This ELHS has its own set of substages that redirect the individual away from the normal life history stage and promote survival. The bold arrows indicate that this stage can be reached from any of the normal life history stages. The converse (thin arrows), however, is determined by the progression of seasons. If the LPF is short‐lived, the individual may return to the same life history stage it left. If the LPF is longer‐lived, the individual may assume the next life history stage, that is, the one most appropriate for the time of year when the LPF passes .

Figure 2. Figure 2.

Schematic representation of the potential pathways by which direct labile perturbation factors influence secretions of the hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal axis. Glucocorticosteroids secreted may be cortisol (some mammals and teleost fish) or corticosterone (some mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians), but their actions tend to be identical.

Figure 3. Figure 3.

Individual profiles of plasma levels of corticosterone during the capture stress protocol in free‐living common redpolls, Carduelis flammea, sampled at Barrow Alaska. Each symbol represents an individual identified by a code (CORE for COmmon REdpoll followed by a number). From .



Figure 1.

Representation of a simplified series of life history stages for a typical bird. Note that each stage is characterized by its unique physiology, morphology, and behavior. Each stage also has a unique subset of substages that can be expressed in a number of combinations to give physiological state at any point in time . The life history stages are expressed on a predictable schedule regulated by environmental cues such as the annual photocycle. There is also an emergency life history stage (ELHS) that can be triggered from any normal life history stage by unpredictable direct labile perturbation factors (LPFs) in the environment . This ELHS has its own set of substages that redirect the individual away from the normal life history stage and promote survival. The bold arrows indicate that this stage can be reached from any of the normal life history stages. The converse (thin arrows), however, is determined by the progression of seasons. If the LPF is short‐lived, the individual may return to the same life history stage it left. If the LPF is longer‐lived, the individual may assume the next life history stage, that is, the one most appropriate for the time of year when the LPF passes .



Figure 2.

Schematic representation of the potential pathways by which direct labile perturbation factors influence secretions of the hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal axis. Glucocorticosteroids secreted may be cortisol (some mammals and teleost fish) or corticosterone (some mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians), but their actions tend to be identical.



Figure 3.

Individual profiles of plasma levels of corticosterone during the capture stress protocol in free‐living common redpolls, Carduelis flammea, sampled at Barrow Alaska. Each symbol represents an individual identified by a code (CORE for COmmon REdpoll followed by a number). From .

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John C. Wingfield, L. Michael Romero. Adrenocortical Responses to Stress and Their Modulation in Free‐Living Vertebrates. Compr Physiol 2011, Supplement 23: Handbook of Physiology, The Endocrine System, Coping with the Environment: Neural and Endocrine Mechanisms: 211-234. First published in print 2001. doi: 10.1002/cphy.cp070411