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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 2, 2019

Migratory Species Show Distinct Patterns in Corticosterone Levels during Spring and Autumn Migrations

  • Arseny Tsvey EMAIL logo , Julia Loshchagina and Sergey Naidenko
From the journal Animal Migration


Twice a year billions of birds migrate between breeding and wintering grounds. To facilitate migrations, birds develop migratory disposition, a complex suite of behavioral and physiological adjustments. Glucocorticoid hormone corticosterone is involved in the regulation of migratory behavior and physiology, however no consensus on its exact role in controlling avian migration exists. Using a large dataset on seven songbird species (long- and short-distance migrants) obtained during eleven consecutive migratory seasons on the Courish Spit of the Baltic Sea, we showed the general tendency of similar baseline corticosterone concentrations during both migrations, although stress-induced levels were generally much higher during spring. No difference between long- and short-distance migrants was found in either baseline or stress-induced levels, while there was substantial between-species variation, especially in baseline concentrations. The distinct patterns of corticosterone secretion during seasonal migrations even in ecologically similar species indicate that it is likely to be a species-specific trait. Thus, our study corroborates the inconsistency found in earlier studies and demonstrates how scientific understanding of the role of corticosterone during migration is still evolving. Rather low baseline corticosterone concentrations observed in this study emphasize that birds in both migratory seasons were not in a “stressed” state before capture.


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Received: 2019-08-18
Accepted: 2019-10-24
Published Online: 2019-12-02

© 2019 Arseny Tsvey et al., published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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