Assessing the effects of repeated handling on physiology and condition of semi-precocial nestlings

Watson, H., Bolton, M., Heidinger, B. J., Boner, W. and Monaghan, P. (2016) Assessing the effects of repeated handling on physiology and condition of semi-precocial nestlings. IBIS, 158(4), pp. 834-843. (doi: 10.1111/ibi.12402) (PMID:27708454) (PMCID:PMC5032895)

121411.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.



Repeated exposure to elevated levels of glucocorticoids during development can have long-term detrimental effects on survival and fitness, potentially associated with increased telomere attrition. Nestling birds are regularly handled for ecological research, yet few authors have considered the potential for handling-induced stress to influence hormonally-mediated phenotypic development or bias interpretations of subsequent focal measurements. We experimentally manipulated the handling experience of the semi-precocial nestlings of European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus to simulate handling in a typical field study and examined cumulative effects on physiology and condition in late postnatal development. Neither baseline corticosterone (the primary glucocorticoid in birds), telomere length nor body condition varied with the number of handling episodes. The absence of a response could be explained if Storm Petrels did not perceive handling to be stressful or if there is dissociation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis from stressful stimuli in early life. Eliciting a response to a stressor may be maladaptive for cavity-dwelling young that are unable to escape or defend themselves. Furthermore, avoiding elevated overall glucocorticoid exposure may be particularly important in a long-lived species, in which accelerated early-life telomere erosion could impact negatively upon longevity. We propose that the level of colony-wide disturbance induced by investigator handling of young could be important in underlining species-specific responses. Storm Petrel nestlings appear unresponsive to investigator handling within the limits of handling in a typical field study and handling at this level should not bias physiological and morphological measurements.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bolton, Dr Mark and Monaghan, Professor Pat and Watson, Miss Hannah and Boner, Dr Winnie
Authors: Watson, H., Bolton, M., Heidinger, B. J., Boner, W., and Monaghan, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:IBIS
Publisher:Wiley, for the British Ornithologists' Union
ISSN (Online):1474-919X
Published Online:25 July 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in IBIS 158(4):834-843
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record

Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
500142Doctoral Training Grant 2009-16Julian DowBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/F016700/1RI MOLECULAR CELL & SYSTEMS BIOLOGY
545091ECOTELO - The ecological significance of telomere dynamics:environments, individuals and inheritancePatricia MonaghanEuropean Research Council (ERC)20100317/FP7-26RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED