Glucocorticoids have a wide array of actions in vertebrates. Daily fluctuations in basal levels of glucocorticoids are thought to regulate homeostatic mechanisms. In contrast, elevated levels secreted in response to stress stimulate changes in physiology and behavior. These changes are thought to aid an animal in avoiding chronic stress or death. Twenty-four-hour rhythms in basal and stress-induced glucocorticoids have been detected in laboratory mammals, but studies in wild, seasonal vertebrates are rare. Identification of plasticity in hormone secretion in wild vertebrates is critical to understanding the effects of hormones on physiology and behavior, and therefore the success of an animal in its natural environment. In the present study, we characterized diel patterns of basal and stress-induced corticosterone (the avian glucocorticoid) under two photoperiods in Gambel's white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii). In contrast to previous findings in the white-crowned sparrow, we demonstrated a robust rhythm in basal corticosterone secretion, in which corticosterone reaches peak levels at the end of the inactive period, and has returned to trough levels just after the active period has begun. We also demonstrated diel rhythm in secretion of corticosterone in response to a stressor, showing the greatest response at the beginning of the active period. Patterns of CORT secretion were similar under both photoperiods. These patterns show interesting similarities and differences to classical mammalian rhythms.
|Number of pages
|Journal of Experimental Zoology
|Published - Aug 1 1999