10 October 2014

'Reactive' penguins more prepared for climate change?

NEW ZEALAND - As the global climate continues to change, the ability of many animal species to adapt is being put to the test.

John Cockrem of the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences at Massey University suggests that a bird’s individual personality may be among the factors that could improve its chances of successfully coping with environmental stressors. He studied differences in the level of the stress hormone corticosterone that little penguins secreted when exposed to stressful stimulus.

“There is considerable individual variation in corticosterone responses, and a stimulus that initiates a large response in one bird may initiate a small response in another bird,” Cockrem wrote.

“Corticosterone responses and behavioural responses to environmental stimuli are together determined by individual characteristics called personality.

"Birds with low corticosterone responses and proactive personalities are likely to be more successful (have greater fitness) in constant or predictable conditions, whilst birds with reactive personalities and high corticosterone responses will be more successful in changing or unpredictable conditions.”

These findings may help to predict the adaptability of bird species as they face a new normal.

Cockrem presented 'Corticosterone responses and the ability of birds to cope with environmental change' at the American Physiological Society (APS) intersociety meeting 'Comparative Approaches to Grand Challenges in Physiology' on 8 October 2014.

Penguins use their personalities to prepared for climate change, 8 October 2014, The American Physiological Society

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