The urban environment presents new and different challenges to wildlife, but also potential opportunities depending on the species. As urban encroachment onto native habitats continues, understanding the impact of this expansion on native species is vital to conservation. A key physiological indicator of environmental disturbance is the vertebrate stress response, involving increases in circulating glucocorticoids (i.e., corticosterone), which exert influence on numerous physiological parameters including energy storage, reproduction, and immunity. We examined how urbanization in Phoenix, Arizona influences corticosterone levels, blood parasitism, and innate immunity in populations of tree lizards (Urosaurus ornatus) to determine whether urbanization may be detrimental or beneficial to this species. Both baseline and stress-induced corticosterone concentrations were significantly lower in urban lizards relative to the rural ones, however, the magnitude of the increase in corticosterone with stress did not differ across populations. Urban lizards also had a lower ratio of heterophils to lymphocytes, but elevated overall leukocyte count, as compared to lizards from the natural site. Urban and rural lizards did not differ in their prevalence of the blood parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum. Taken together, these results suggest that urban tree lizards may have suppressed overall corticosterone concentrations possibly from down-regulation as a result of frequent exposure to stressors, or increased access to urban resources. Also, urban lizards may have bolstered immunocompetence possibly from increased immune challenges, such as wounding, in the urban environment, or from greater energetic reserves being available as a result of access to urban resources.
disturbance; corticosterone; leukocytes; urbanization; parasites
Recent theory predicts that environmental variation and small population size facilitate the coexistence of alternative phenotypes despite unequal mean fitness. However, traditional studies of reproductive strategies often assume that the stability of alternative mating behaviours relies on equal male fitness. We present results from field observations and experimental manipulations of thermal resources on territories demonstrating the coexistence of alternative reproductive behaviours with unequal fitness. The side-blotched lizard Uta stansburiana exhibits two alternative strategies for territoriality: "usurp" and "defend". Paternity analysis revealed significantly greater mean fitness for "usurpers" than "defenders" in our study of natural variation. Moreover, variance in fitness was significantly higher for usurpers on both experimental and natural plots, implying that "usurp" is a risky strategy with potentially large pay-offs or none at all. We show theoretically that significantly higher variance in usurper fitness can allow for coexistence with defenders despite higher mean fitness of usurpers. This coexistence is facilitated by small population size. Our results have general implications for the evolution of alternative strategies and the maintenance of genetic diversity in small populations.
Recently, studies of adaptive color variation have become popular as models for examining the genetics of natural selection. We examined color pattern polymorphism and genetic variation in a population of side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana) that is found in habitats with both dark (lava) and light colored (granite) substrates. We conducted a limited experiment for adult phenotypic plasticity in laboratory conditions. We recorded both substrate and lizard color patterns in the field to determine whether lizards tended to match their substrate. Finally we examined genetic variation in a gene (melanocortin 1 receptor) that has been shown to affect lizard color in other species and in a presumably neutral gene (mitochondrial cytochrome b). Populations were sampled in the immediate area of the lava flows as well as from a more distant site to examine the role of population structure. Our captive Uta did not change color to match their background. We show that side-blotched lizards tend to match the substrate on which it was caught in the field and that variation in the melanocortin 1 receptor gene does not correlate well with color pattern in this population. Perhaps the most remarkable result is that this population of side-blotched lizards shows extremely high levels of variation at both genetic markers, in the sense of allele numbers, with relatively low levels of between-allele sequence variation. Genetic variation across this small region was as great or greater than that seen in samples of pelagic fish species collected worldwide. Statistical analysis of genetic variation suggests rapid population expansion may be responsible for the high levels of variation.
We provide field-based experimental evidence for the frequency-dependent nature of the fitness of alternative mating strategies. We manipulated the frequency of genetically determined phenotypic strategies in six wild populations of the side-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana. The within-population pattern of mating was assessed using nine microsatellite loci to assign paternity. Within populations of the side-blotched lizard exist three colour morphs (orange, blue and yellow) associated with male mating strategy. The frequency of these morphs has previously been found to oscillate over a 4- to 5-year period. We found, as predicted, that the common phenotype lost fitness to its antagonist. The mating patterns of all six populations adhered to a priori predictions that were derived from previous empirical and theoretical observations on this system. We found that the frequency-dependent nature of male fitness could be accounted for by the composition of their competitors at a small local population level, driven by associations within a focal female's social neighbourhood.
frequency-dependent selection; assortative mating; spatial associations; sexual conflict; side-blotched lizard
Honest-signalling theory asserts that threat displays reliably advertise attributes that influence fighting success. Endurance, as measured by treadmill performance, predicts the outcome of agonistic interactions among lizards. If threat displays in lizards function to advertise endurance capacity then variation in threat displays should correlate with endurance. I tested this prediction for the duration of threat posturing in male side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana) and examined whether threat displays act as quality handicaps, reliable signals that expend the attribute that is advertised. Individual variation in the duration of threat posturing correlated with endurance, while an experimental reduction of endurance diminished the duration of threat posturing. As expected of a quality handicap, endurance fell below baseline after display production. A restriction of aerobic metabolism can account for this effect. In threat posturing, lateral compression of the thorax may interfere with respiration or with circulation, limiting aerobic metabolism and causing a compensatory increase in anaerobic metabolism, thereby generating lactate and diminishing locomotor capacity. Concentrations of lactate measured after display production were higher than baseline, consistent with the proposed mechanism. By restricting aerobic metabolism, the threat posture can act as a quality handicap, simultaneously advertising and expending the endurance capacity of displaying lizards.
Natural populations respond to selection pressures like increasing local temperatures in many ways, including plasticity and adaptation. To predict the response of ectotherms like lizards to local temperature increase, it is essential to estimate phenotypic variation in and determine the heritability of temperature-related traits like average field body temperature (Tb) and preferred temperature (Tp). We measured Tp of Uta stansburiana in a laboratory thermal gradient and assessed the contribution of sex, reproductive status and throat color genotype to phenotypic variation in Tb of adult lizards. Females had higher Tp than males. However, they temporarily preferred lower temperature when gravid than when nongravid. Using a nested half-sib design for genetic crosses in the laboratory, we estimated relative contributions of additive genetic variation and maternal effects to Tp of hatchlings. Our results show that maternal effects, but not additive genetic variation, influence Tp of hatchlings in U. stansburiana. Maternal Tp and the presence or absence of blue throat color alleles significantly influenced Tp of hatchlings. We discuss ecological and evolutionary consequences of these maternal effects in the context of rapid climate change and natural selection that we measure on progeny survival to maturity as a function of maternal Tp.
Maternal effects; side-blotched lizards; temperature preference; thermo-regulation; throat color polymorphism
The usage of invasive tagging methods to assess lizard populations has often been criticised, due to the potential negative effects of marking, which possibly cause increased mortality or altered behaviour. The development of safe, less invasive techniques is essential for improved ecological study and conservation of lizard populations. In this study, we describe a photographic capture-recapture (CR) technique for estimating Draco dussumieri (Agamidae) populations. We used photographs of the ventral surface of the patagium to identify individuals. To establish that the naturally occurring blotches remained constant through time, we compared capture and recapture photographs of 45 pen-marked individuals after a 30 day interval. No changes in blotches were observed and individual lizards could be identified with 100% accuracy. The population density of D. dussumieri in a two hectare areca-nut plantation was estimated using the CR technique with ten sampling occasions over a ten day period. The resulting recapture histories for 24 individuals were analysed using population models in the program CAPTURE. All models indicated that nearly all individuals were captured. The estimated probability for capturing D. dussumieri on at least one occasion was 0.92 and the estimated population density was 13±1.65 lizards/ha. Our results demonstrate the potential for applying CR to population studies in gliding lizards (Draco spp.) and other species with distinctive markings.
With global climate change, rainfall is becoming more variable. Predicting the responses of species to changing rainfall levels is difficult because, for example in herbivorous species, these effects may be mediated indirectly through changes in host plant quality. Furthermore, species responses may result from a simultaneous interaction between rainfall levels and other environmental variables such as anthropogenic land use or habitat quality. In this eco-evolutionary study, we examined how male and female Pararge aegeria (L.) from woodland and agricultural landscape populations were affected by the development on drought-stressed host plants. Compared with individuals from woodland landscapes, when reared on drought-stressed plants agricultural individuals had longer development times, reduced survival rates and lower adult body masses. Across both landscape types, growth on drought-stressed plants resulted in males and females with low forewing aspect ratios and in females with lower wing loading and reduced fecundity. Development on drought-stressed plants also had a landscape-specific effect on reproductive output; agricultural females laid eggs that had a significantly lower hatching success. Overall, our results highlight several potential mechanisms by which low water availability, via changes in host plant quality, may differentially influence P. aegeria populations relative to landscape structure.
agriculture; climate change; life history evolution; phenotypic plasticity
Under chronic stress, carotenoid-based colouration has often been shown to fade. However, the ecological and physiological mechanisms that govern colouration still remain largely unknown. Colour changes may be directly induced by the stressor (for example through reduced carotenoid intake) or due to the activation of the physiological stress response (PSR, e.g. due to increased blood corticosterone concentrations). Here, we tested whether blood corticosterone concentration affected carotenoid-based colouration, and whether a trade-off between colouration and PSR existed. Using the common lizard (Lacerta vivipara), we correlatively and experimentally showed that elevated blood corticosterone levels are associated with increased redness of the lizard's belly. In this study, the effects of corticosterone did not depend on carotenoid ingestion, indicating the absence of a trade-off between colouration and PSR for carotenoids. While carotenoid ingestion increased blood carotenoid concentration, colouration was not modified. This suggests that carotenoid-based colouration of common lizards is not severely limited by dietary carotenoid intake.
Together with earlier studies, these findings suggest that the common lizard's carotenoid-based colouration may be a composite trait, consisting of fixed (e.g. genetic) and environmentally elements, the latter reflecting the lizard's PSR.
Although defining population structure according to discrete habitat patches is convenient for metapopulation theories, taking this approach may overlook structure within populations continuously distributed across landscapes. For example, landscape features within habitat patches direct the movement of organisms and define the density distribution of individuals, which can generate spatial structure and localized dynamics within populations as well as among them. Here, we use the neighborhood concept, which describes population structure relative to the scale of individual movements, to illustrate how localized dynamics within a population of lizards (Sceloporus arenicolus) arise in response to variation in landscape pattern within a continuous habitat patch. Our results emphasize links between individual movements at small scales and the emergence of spatial structure within populations which resembles metapopulation dynamics at larger scales. We conclude that population dynamics viewed in a landscape context must consider the explicit distribution and movement of individuals within continuous habitat as well as among habitat patches.
The energetic resources in an organism’s environment are essential for executing a wide range of life history functions, including immunity and reproduction. Most energetic budgets, however, are limited, which can lead to trade-offs among competing functions. Increasing reproductive effort tends to decrease immunity in many cases; and increasing total energy via supplemental feedings can eliminate this effect. Testosterone (T), an important regulator of reproduction, and food availability are thus both potential factors regulating life-history processes, yet they are often tested in isolation of each other. In this study, we considered the effect of both food availability and elevated T on immune function and reproductive behavior in sagebrush lizards, Sceloporus graciosus, to assess how T and energy availability affect these trade-offs. We experimentally manipulated diet (via supplemental feedings) and T (via dermal patches) in males from a natural population. We determined innate immune response by calculating the bacterial killing capability of collected plasma exposed to E. coli ex vivo. We measured reproductive behavior by counting the number of courtship displays produced in a 20-min sampling period. We observed an interactive effect of food availability and T-patch on immune function, with food supplementation increasing immunity in T-patch lizards. Additionally, T increased courtship displays in control food lizards. Lizards with supplemental food had higher circulating T than controls. Collectively, this study shows that the energetic state of the animal plays a critical role in modulating the interactions among T, behavior and immunity in sagebrush lizards and likely other species.
Context-dependent; Energy allocation; Innate immunity; Life history; Resources; Sceloporus; Trade-offs
Somatic growth patterns represent a major component of organismal fitness and may vary among sexes and populations due to genetic and environmental processes leading to profound differences in life-history and demography. This study considered the ontogenic, sex-specific and spatial dynamics of somatic growth patterns in ten populations of the world’s largest lizard the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). The growth of 400 individual Komodo dragons was measured in a capture-mark-recapture study at ten sites on four islands in eastern Indonesia, from 2002 to 2010. Generalized Additive Mixed Models (GAMMs) and information-theoretic methods were used to examine how growth rates varied with size, age and sex, and across and within islands in relation to site-specific prey availability, lizard population density and inbreeding coefficients. Growth trajectories differed significantly with size and between sexes, indicating different energy allocation tactics and overall costs associated with reproduction. This leads to disparities in maximum body sizes and longevity. Spatial variation in growth was strongly supported by a curvilinear density-dependent growth model with highest growth rates occurring at intermediate population densities. Sex-specific trade-offs in growth underpin key differences in Komodo dragon life-history including evidence for high costs of reproduction in females. Further, inverse density-dependent growth may have profound effects on individual and population level processes that influence the demography of this species.
Psychological stress is a major risk factor for mood and anxiety disorders. However, the phenotypic manifestation of stress effects varies across individuals, likely due, in part, to genetic variation. Modeling the behavioral and neural consequences of stress across genetically diverse inbred mouse strains is a valuable approach to studying gene x stress interactions. Recent work has shown that C57BL/6J mice exposed to ten daily sessions of restraint stress exhibited increased exploration of the aversive light compartment in the light/dark exploration (LDE) test. Here we sought to clarify the nature of this stress-induced phenotype by testing the ability of treatment with various clinically efficacious drugs of different therapeutic classes to rescue it. Ten days of restraint increased light compartment exploration, reduced body weight and sensitized the corticosterone response to swim stress. Subchronic administration (during stress and LDE testing) of fluoxetine, and to a lesser extent, lithium chloride, rescued stress-induced LDE behavior. Chronic fluoxetine treatment prior to (plus during stress and testing) failed to block the LDE stress effect. Acute administration of antipsychotic haloperidol, anti-ADHD medication methylphenidate or anxiolytic drug chlordiazepoxide, prior to LDE testing, was also unable to normalize the LDE stress effect. Collectively, these data demonstrate a treatment-selective prophylactic rescue of a restraint stress-induced behavioral abnormality in the C57BL/6J inbred strain. Further work with this novel model could help elucidate genetic and neural mechanisms mediating stress-induced changes in mouse ‘emotion-relevant’ behaviors and, ultimately, further understanding of the pathophysiology of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders.
fluoxetine; lithium; mood; depression; animal model
Several recent studies have explored various aspects of animal personality and their ecological consequences. However, the processes responsible for the maintenance of personality variability within a population are still largely unknown. We have recently demonstrated that social personality traits exist in the common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) and that the variation in sociability provides an explanation for variable dispersal responses within a given species. However, we need to know the fitness consequences of variation in sociability across environmental contexts in order to better understand the maintenance of such variation. In order to achieve this, we investigated the relationship between sociability and survival, body growth and fecundity, in one-year-old individuals in semi-natural populations with varying density. ‘Asocial’ and ‘social’ lizards displayed different fitness outcomes in populations of different densities. Asocial lizards survived better in low-density populations, while social females reproduced better. Spatiotemporal variation in environmental conditions might thus be the process underlying the maintenance of these personality traits within a population. Finally, we also discuss the position of sociability in a more general individual behavioural pattern including boldness, exploration and aggressiveness.
sociability; survival; growth rate; reproduction; behavioural syndromes; common lizard
Chronic social stress diverts energy away from growth, reproduction and immunity, and is thus a potential driver of population dynamics. However, the effects of social stress on demographic density dependence remain largely overlooked in ecological theory. Here we combine behavioural experiments, physiology and population modelling to show in a top predator (pike Esox lucius) that social stress alone may be a primary driver of demographic density dependence. Doubling pike density in experimental ponds under controlled prey availability did not significantly change prey intake by pike (i.e. did not significantly change interference or exploitative competition), but induced a neuroendocrine stress response reflecting a size-dependent dominance hierarchy, depressed pike energetic status and lowered pike body growth rate by 23 per cent. Assuming fixed size-dependent survival and fecundity functions parameterized for the Windermere (UK) pike population, stress-induced smaller body size shifts age-specific survival rates and lowers age-specific fecundity, which in Leslie matrices projects into reduced population rate of increase (λ) by 37–56%. Our models also predict that social stress flattens elasticity profiles of λ to age-specific survival and fecundity, thus making population persistence more dependent on old individuals. Our results suggest that accounting for non-consumptive social stress from competitors and predators is necessary to accurately understand, predict and manage food-web dynamics.
community interactions; corticosteroids; hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal axis; Leslie matrix; thyroid hormones; trait-mediated interactions
Anthropogenic disturbance is a relevant and widespread facilitator of environmental change and there is clear evidence that it impacts natural populations. While population-level responses to major anthropogenic changes have been well studied, individual physiological responses to mild disturbance can be equally critical to the long-term survival of a species, yet they remain largely unexamined. The current study investigated the impact of seemingly low-level anthropogenic disturbance (ecotourism) on stress responsiveness and specific fitness-related immune measures in different breeding stages of the marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). Specifically, we found stress-induced elevations in plasma corticosterone among tourist-exposed populations relative to undisturbed populations. We also found changes in multiple immunological responses associated with stress-related effects of human disturbance, including bacterial killing ability, cutaneous wound healing, and hemolytic complement activity, and the responses varied according to reproductive state. By identifying health-related consequences of human disturbance, this study provides critical insight into the conservation of a well-known species that has a very distinct ecology. The study also broadens the foundation of knowledge needed to understand the global significance of various levels of human disturbance.
Corticosterone; reproduction; immunity; tourism
Physical exercise dampens an individual’s stress response and decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression disorders. While the extrinsic relationship of exercise and psychological state are established, their intrinsic relationship is unresolved. We investigated the potential intrinsic relationship of exercise with stress responsiveness using NIH rats bidirectionally selected for intrinsic endurance capacity. Selection resulted in two populations, one with high intrinsic endurance (high capacity runners; HCR) and one with low intrinsic endurance (low capacity runners; LCR). Animals from these populations were subjected to the elevated plus maze (EPM) and novel environment to assess levels of anxiety-like behavior, and to restraint stress to determine stress responsiveness. Pre-test plasma corticosterone levels and the response of plasma corticosterone to exposure to the EPM and restraint were analyzed using ELISA. A dexamethasone suppression test was performed to assess negative feedback tone of corticosterone release. Pre-test plasma corticosterone levels were similar between LCR and HCR, and these populations had similar behavioral and corticosterone responses to the EPM. Following restraint, HCR animals exhibited more anxiotypic behavior than LCR animals on the EPM, and exhibited an increase in plasma corticosterone following EPM and restraint that was not observed in LCR animals. HCR animals also exhibited more anxiotypic behavior in the novel environment compared to LCR animals. Plasma corticosterone levels were equally reduced in both populations following dexamethasone administration. Overall, our data suggest a positive genetic relationship between exercise endurance and stress responsiveness, which is at odds with the established extrinsic relationship of these traits.
exercise endurance; stress; anxiety; selective breeding
When both genotype and environment are held constant, “chance” variation in the lifespan of individuals in a population is still quite large. Using isogenic populations of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans we show that, on the first day of adult life, chance variation in the level of induction of a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter coupled to a promoter from the hsp-16.2 gene, predicts as much as a four-fold variation in subsequent survival. The same reporter is also a predictor of ability to withstand a subsequent lethal thermal stress. The level of induction of GFP is not heritable and GFP expression levels in other reporter constructs are not associated with differential longevity. HSP-16 alone is probably not responsible for the observed differences in survival but instead is likely reflective of a hidden, heterogeneous, but now quantifiable, physiological state that dictates the ability of the organism to deal with the rigors of living.
The Y model of resource allocation predicts a tradeoff between reproduction and survival. Environmental stress could affect a tradeoff between reproduction and survival, but the physiological mechanisms underlying environmental mediation of the tradeoff are largely unknown. One example is the tradeoff between starvation resistance and early fecundity. One goal of the present study was to determine if reduced early age fecundity was indeed a robust indirect response to selection for starvation resistance, by investigation of a set of D. melanogaster starvation selected lines which had not previously been characterized for age specific egg production. Another goal of the present study was to investigate a possible relationship between ovariole number and starvation resistance. Ovariole number is correlated with maximum daily fecundity in outbred D. melanogaster. Thus, one might expect that a negative genetic correlation between starvation resistance and early fecundity would be accompanied by a decrease in ovariole number.
Selection for early age female starvation resistance favored survival under food deprivation conditions apparently at the expense of early age egg production. The total number of eggs produced by females from selected and control lines was approximately the same for the first 26 days of life, but the timing of egg production differed such that selected females produced fewer eggs early in adult life. Females from lines selected for female starvation resistance exhibited a greater number of ovarioles than did unselected lines. Moreover, maternal starvation resulted in progeny with a greater number of ovarioles in both selected and unselected lines.
Reduced early age egg production is a robust response to laboratory selection for starvation survival. Ovariole numbers increased in response to selection for female starvation resistance indicating that ovariole number does not account for reduced early age egg production. Further, ovariole number increased in a parallel response to maternal starvation, suggesting an evolutionary association between maternal environment and the reproductive system of female progeny.
In vertebrates, the adrenocortical stress response activates an emergency life-history stage, which is thought to promote survival by helping individuals escape life-threatening situations. Although the adrenocortical stress response promotes many behavioural and physiological changes, it remains unclear whether this stress response actually translates into higher survival in wild vertebrates. We measured the adrenocortical stress response of non-breeding American redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla), a migratory bird that wintered in habitats of either high (mangroves) or low suitability (scrubs), and subsequently monitored their return rate during the following non-breeding seasons. The intensity of the adrenocortical stress response was consistent within individuals across the non-breeding season and was positively correlated with return rates in redstarts that wintered in scrubs, but not in redstarts that wintered in mangroves. Thus, in a context-dependent manner, the ability of an individual to physiologically react to stress determines its ability of returning to its non-breeding territory the following winters. For an individual, the ability to mount an important adrenocortical stress response probably benefits to survival. However, this beneficial effect probably depends on an individual's environment and phenotypic characteristics because these two variables are likely to affect its probability of being confronted with life-threatening stressors during its annual life cycle.
corticosterone; survival; stress; environmental context; habitat
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a fungus that causes the disease chytridiomycosis and is associated with widespread amphibian declines. Populations vary in their susceptibility to Bd infections, and the virulence of the infecting lineage can also vary. Both of these factors may manifest as a differential physiological stress response. In addition, variation in disease susceptibility across amphibian populations may be influenced by immunosuppression caused by chronic stress imposed by environmental factors. Here, we use a non-invasive water-borne hormone technique to assess stress levels (corticosterone) of free-living tadpole populations that are infected by Bd. We found that corticosterone release rates were higher in infected populations of two species of tadpoles (Alytes obstetricans and A. muletensis) than in an uninfected population for both species. The relationship between corticosterone and the intensity of infection differed between species, with only the infected A. obstetricans population showing a significant positive correlation. The higher corticosterone release rates found in A. obstetricans may be an outcome of infection by a highly virulent lineage of Bd (BdGPL), whereas A. muletensis is infected with a less virulent lineage (BdCAPE). These results suggest that different lineages of Bd impose different levels of stress on the infected animals, and that this may influence survival. The next step is to determine whether higher corticosterone levels make individuals more susceptible to Bd or if Bd infections drive the higher corticosterone levels.
Major depressive disorder patients present chronic stress and decreased immunity. The Wistar-Kyoto rat (WKY) is a strain in which the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is overactivated. To determine whether chronic stress induces changes in corticosterone levels and splenic lymphoid tissue, 9-week-old male rats were subject to restraint stress (3 h daily), chemical stress (hydrocortisone treatment, 50 mg/Kg weight), mixed stress (restraint plus hydrocortisone), or control treatment (without stress) for 1, 4, and 7 weeks. The serum corticosterone levels by RIA and spleens morphology were analyzed. Corticosterone levels as did the structure, size of the follicles and morphology of the parenchyma (increase in red pulp) in the spleen, varied depending on time and type of stressor. These changes indicate that chronic stress alters the immune response in the spleen in WKY rats by inducing morphological changes, explaining in part the impaired immunity that develops in organisms that are exposed to chronic stress.
Stresses like dietary restriction or various toxins increase lifespan in taxa as diverse as yeast, Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila and rats, by triggering physiological responses that also tend to delay reproduction. Food odors can reverse the effects of dietary restriction, showing that key mechanisms respond to information, not just resources. Such environmental cues can predict population trends, not just individual prospects for survival and reproduction. When population size is increasing, each offspring produced earlier makes a larger proportional contribution to the gene pool, but the reverse is true when population size is declining.
We show mathematically that natural selection can favor facultative delay in reproduction when environmental cues predict a decrease in total population size, even if lifetime fecundity decreases with delay. We also show that increased reproduction from waiting for better conditions does not increase fitness (proportional representation) when the whole population benefits similarly.
We conclude that the beneficial effects of stress on longevity (hormesis) in diverse taxa are a side-effect of delaying reproduction in response to environmental cues that population size is likely to decrease. The reversal by food odors of the effects of dietary restriction can be explained as a response to information that population size is less likely to decrease, reducing the chance that delaying reproduction will increase fitness.
Following an acute stressor, pre-adolescent rats exhibit a protracted hormonal response compared to adults, while after repeated exposure to the same stressor (i.e., homotypic stress) prepubertal males fail to habituate like adults. Though the neurobehavioral implications of these changes are unknown, studying pubertal shifts in stress reactivity may help elucidate the mechanisms that underlie the increase in stress-related psychological and physiological disorders often observed during adolescence. Here, we investigated hormonal, behavioral, and neural responses of prepubertal (30d) and adult (77d) male rats before, during, or after acute stress (restraint), homotypic stress (repeated restraint) or heterotypic stress (repeated cold exposure followed by restraint). We found that prepubertal males exhibit prolonged corticosterone responses following acute and heterotypic stress, and higher adrenocorticotropic hormone and corticosterone responses after homotypic stress, compared to adults. Despite these significant age-dependent changes in hormonal responsiveness, we found struggling behavior during restraint was similar at both ages, such that both prepubertal and adult animals exposed to homotypic stress struggled less than animals exposed to either acute or heterotypic stress. Across these different stress paradigms, we found greater neural activation, as indexed by FOS immunostaining, in the prepubertal compared to adult paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, a nucleus integral for initiating the hormonal stress response. Interestingly, however, we did not find any influence of pubertal development on stress-induced activation of the posterior paraventricular thalamic nucleus, a brain region involved in experience-dependent changes in stress reactivity. Collectively, our data indicate prepubertal and adult males display divergent hormonal, behavioral, and neural responses following a variety of stressful experiences, as well as a distinct dissociation between hormonal and behavioral reactivity in prepubertal males under homotypic conditions.
Acute Stress; Adolescence; Heterotypic Stress; Homotypic Stress; Struggling Behavior
Vertebrates exhibit varied behavioural and physiological tactics to promote reproductive success. We examined mechanisms that could enable female loggerhead turtles to undertake nesting activities and maintain seasonal reproduction despite recent shark injuries of varying severity. We proposed that endocrinal mechanisms that regulate both a turtle's stress response and reproductive ability are modified to promote successful and continued reproduction. Irrespective of the degree of injury, females did not exhibit increased levels of the stress hormone corticosterone, nor decreased levels of the reproductive steroid testosterone; hormone responses consistent with stress. When exposed to a capture stressor, females with shark injury did not exhibit any greater corticosterone response than controls. In addition, breeding females showed a reduced corticosterone stress response compared to non-breeding females. Reduced endocrinal responses following shark injury, and during breeding in general may, in part, enable females to maintain behavioural and physiological commitment to reproduction.