Corticosterone Responses to Capture and Restraint in Emperor and Adelie Penguins in Antarctica
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Birds respond to capture, handling and restraint with increased secretion of corticosterone, a glucocorticoid hormone that helps birds adjust to stressful situations. Hoods are reported to calm birds, but possible effects of hoods on corticosterone responses have not been reported for any bird. Corticosterone responses to restraint in Adelie penguins held by their legs with their head covered by a hood were markedly lower than responses of penguins restrained in a mesh bag inside a cardboard box (corticosterone at 30 min 15.69+/-1.72 cf. 28.32+/-2.75 ng/ml). The birds restrained by the two methods were sampled at the same location but in different years, so the differences in corticosterone responses cannot unequivocally be ascribed to an effect of hoods to reduce corticosterone responses. Corticosterone responses have been measured in some penguins, but not in the largest, the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri). The relationship between body mass and corticosterone responses to capture and restraint in penguins was examined in emperor penguins captured on sea ice in McMurdo Sound and Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) captured at Cape Bird, Ross Island, Antarctica. Total integrated corticosterone responses were higher in the emperor than the Adelie penguins, but corrected integrated corticosterone responses, which represent the increase in corticosterone from initial concentrations and hence the corticosterone response to restraint, were the same. The results for the emperor and Adelie penguins, together with data from other penguin species, suggest that there is no relationship between the size of corticosterone responses and body mass in penguins.
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