The role of sex and stress response on exploratory behavior of Wood Thrush living in fragmented landscapes – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

The role of sex and stress response on exploratory behavior of Wood Thrush living in fragmented landscapes

Marlana Peek


Pronouns: She/Her

Research Mentor(s): Rachel Wadleigh, PhD Candidate
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 4 (2pm-2:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 7
Presenter: 8

Event Link


As climate change worsens and humans continue to modify habitats, it will be increasingly important to understand how organisms respond to these changes both through behavioral and physiological adaptations. Both exploratory behavior and corticosterone (CORT) levels in birds are impacted by habitat fragmentation (Cornelius et. al, 2017, Kluen et. al, 2014); however, there are mixed results on how these effects vary based on sex (Schuett and Dall, 2009, Atwell et. al, 2012). We captured Wood Thrush living in highly and minimally fragmented habitats in Southern Indiana to investigate the relationship between sex, exploratory behavior, and corticosterone. We recorded Wood Thrush for twenty minutes while they explored a portable enclosure with five perches. We then quantified exploration behavior according to the methods in Huang et al (2016). Blood samples were taken both before and after handling to measure baseline and stress-induced CORT levels. We hypothesized that Wood Thrush from highly fragmented habitats would have slower exploration rates due to the fitness consequences of poor spatial decisions and that males would have higher exploratory scores due to the potential fitness benefits of extra-pair fertilizations in other territories or fragments (Ryan Norris and Stutchbury, 2001, Nicolaus et al., 2012). Fast exploration is correlated with lower CORT levels due to reduced risk aversion, thus we predicted that males would exhibit lower CORT levels than females (Carere, 2003). Preliminary results indicate that Wood Thrush from minimally fragmented habitats had higher exploration rates than those from highly fragmented habitats. These results expand the understanding of bird behavior and stress physiology as it relates to sex and could also inform conservation efforts by providing information about how fragmentation affects male and female Wood Thrush.

Authors: Marlana Peek, Rachel Wadleigh
Research Method: Data Collection and Analysis

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