Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A tool to measure stress hormone in birds -- feathers

16.08.2011
Tufts-led research underscores link between elevated hormone

When faced with environmental threats like bad weather, predators or oil spills, wild birds secrete a hormone called corticosterone. Traditionally, researchers have analyzed blood samples to detect corticosterone levels in wild birds.

But recently, scientists have shown that corticosterone spikes can also be detected by analyzing bird feathers. A Tufts University study published in the May 11 online edition of "Journal of Avian Biology" confirmed the new technique as a useful way to determine avian stress response not only to sudden natural threats but also to human-caused activities that have a long-term impact on the environment, such as large construction projects or oil spills.

L. Michael Romero, professor of biology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts, says the findings will be useful to conservationists. "There is a fair bit of public interest in whether human activities create stress in wildlife," says Romero, who directed the study that was led by doctoral student Christine R. Lattin. "The idea is that we can determine whether human changes will leave a record of stress in birds' feathers."

Feathers Offer Advantages Over Blood Sampling

For researchers studying stress in birds, feathers present significant advantages over blood sampling. Scientists can obtain feather samples by collecting naturally-molted feathers from the nest without having to handle birds.

Also, blood samples provide only a snapshot of corticosterone in the blood at the moment the blood sample is drawn. Feathers, however, reflect hormone levels during the time it takes feathers to grow, says Lattin.

"This is important in understanding the long-term impacts of stressors on animals, because stress hormones are mostly beneficial in the short term, and only become a problem when they are at high levels for a sustained period of time," Lattin says.

To test the hypothesis that corticosterone levels in birds' feathers correspond to levels in birds' tissues, the researchers collected feathers from captive European starlings and compared the feather cortisone levels of starlings with and without experimentally-elevated cortisone (via a small capsule implant)They also collected blood samples from each bird three times during the experiment: before implantation and three and five days after implantation.

The researchers analyzed the feathers in two ways. They divided one batch into subgroups that differentiated three stages of growth—before, during and after implantation.

In the second part of the study, the scientists wanted to determine if feathers from the same bird would have similar corticosterone levels. To do this, they selected two feathers from the same bird.

An analysis of the feathers yielded several findings. The nine starlings implanted with corticosterone had significantly higher levels of the hormone in their feathers during the study period than the other birds. Also, the scientists found no difference in corticosterone levels between feathers taken from the same bird, indicating a consistency in feathers grown at the same time.

Romero and Lattin are collaborating with other researchers to see if this technique can be applied to preserved bird specimens at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Feathers may be a way to determine whether birds that lived in the wild decades ago lived in stressful environments.

"This opens up the possibility to use museum specimens to look at how changes in the environment may have affected the birds," says Romero.

Elevated Corticosterone is Related to Deformities in Feathers

In previous experiments, the scientists found that feathers from birds implanted with corticosterone in had lighter, weaker feathers. Lattin says that the results suggest that elevated corticosterone levels could impact birds' health.

The research was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Christine R. Lattin, J. Michael Reed, David W. DesRochers and L. Michael Romero

Article first published online: 11 MAY 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-048X.2010.05310.x

Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's schools is widely encouraged.

Alex Reid | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tufts.edu

Further reports about: Romero Tufts blood sample oil spill stress hormone

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>