Corticosterone And Nocturnal Torpor In The Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus Rufus)

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General And Comparative Endocrinology


Three experiments were designed to investigate whether corticosterone (CORT), known to have a role in restoration of energy homeostasis, regulates nocturnal torpor, an energy conservation state used by some small mammals and birds to offset environmental challenges to energy balance. In two experiments, one during autumn migration and one during early spring molt, captive rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) were fed control and dilute (85% strength) nectar on alternate days. In migratory birds, torpor occurred more frequently over all, and nectar dilution resulted in increased torpor duration and increased concentration of CORT in evening but not midday cloacal fluid (CF) samples. In molting birds, torpor occurred infrequently on both control and food dilution days, but, although there was a significant increase in evening CF CORT on food dilution days, torpor duration did not increase significantly in response and there was no correlation between torpor duration and CF CORT at either time of day. Daily CF CORT patterns showed an increase from midday to evening during migration, but the reverse pattern during the molt. In a third experiment, CORT administered in the nectar elevated the use of torpor and depressed food intake. The results of these three experiments support the hypothesis that CORT is involved in the regulation of torpor, but suggest that some feature of the CORT signal other than concentration per se may be required to fully explain seasonal changes in the relations among energy challenge, CORT, and nocturnal torpor in hummingbirds.

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