Coping with extremes: Remarkably blunt adrenocortical responses to acute stress in two sympatric snow finches on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau during winter relative to other seasons

Dongming Li, Jason E Davis, Gang Wang, Ghulam Nabi , Valerie Bishop, Yangfen Sun, Simone Meddle, John C Wingfield, Fumin Lei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The extreme climatic conditions (ECCs) of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau impose strong selective pressures on the evolution of phenotypic traits in free-living animals. It is not well understood how animals on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau modify their adrenocortical functions in response to both predictable and unpredictable events of ECCs, especially when the available resources are lowest during the wintering life-history stage. To uncover potential physiological mechanisms, we studied the life history stage dependent features of morphology, the plasma corticosterone response to acute stress and brain glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) mRNA expression in two sympatric snow finches: the white-rumped snow finch (Onychostruthus taczanowskii, WRSF); and the rufous-necked snow finch, Pyrgilauda ruficollis, RNSF) in Qinghai Province, China. Our results showed that (a) baseline corticosterone and stressor-induced corticosterone levels significantly varied with life history stage, but not between the species; (b) in WRSF, GR mRNA expression in the paraventricular nucleus was higher in the wintering stage compared to the pre-basic molt stage. There were no differences in hippocampus MR mRNA expression between stages in either species; (c) in the wintering stage, the suppression of corticosterone secretion in both species was an unexpected strategy in free-living animals. Both convergent and divergent phenotypic traits of adrenocortical responses to acute stress in two sympatric snow finches contribute to our understanding of the coping mechanisms of closely related species in the severe winter on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeneral And Comparative Endocrinology
Volume291
Early online date11 Feb 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Feb 2020

Keywords

  • corticosterone
  • corticosterone receptor
  • extreme climatic conditions
  • Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
  • snow finch
  • stress response

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