Peripherally injected ghrelin and leptin reduce food hoarding and mass gain in the coal tit (Periparus ater)

Lindsay J. Henderson, Rowan C. Cockcroft, Hiroyuki Kaiya, Timothy Boswell, Tom V. Smulders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In birds little is known about the hormonal signals that communicate nutritional state to the brain and regulate appetitive behaviours. In mammals, the peptide hormones ghrelin and leptin elevate and inhibit consumption and food hoarding, respectively. But in birds, administration of both ghrelin and leptin inhibit food consumption. The role of these hormones in the regulation of food hoarding in avian species has not been examined. To investigate this, we injected wild caught coal tits (Periparus ater) with leptin, high-dose ghrelin, low-dose ghrelin and a saline control in the laboratory. We then measured food hoarding and mass gain, as a proxy of food consumption, every 20 min for 2 h post-injection. Both high-dose ghrelin and leptin injections significantly reduced hoarding and mass gain compared with controls. Our results provide the first evidence that hoarding behaviour can be reduced by both leptin and ghrelin in a wild bird. These findings add to evidence that the hormonal control of food consumption and hoarding in avian species differs from that in mammals. Food hoarding and consumptive behaviours consistently show the same response to peripheral signals of nutritional state, suggesting that the hormonal regulation of food hoarding has evolved from the consumption regulatory system.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Early online date23 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2018


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