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Breaking down seasonality : Androgen modulation and stress response in a highly stable environment

  • Paulina L. González-Gómez
  • Loren Merrill
  • Vincenzo A. Ellis
  • Cristobal Venegas
  • Javiera I. Pantoja
  • Rodrigo A. Vasquez
  • John C Wingfield
Publishing year: 2013-09-15
Language: English
Pages: 1-12
Publication/Series: General and Comparative Endocrinology
Volume: 191
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

Previous studies show that most birds inhabiting temperate regions have well defined life history stages, and they modulate the production of testosterone (T) and corticosterone (CORT) in response to changes in seasonality. In this study we aimed to examine baseline and stress-induced levels of CORT and circulating T in relation with life history stages in the rufous-collared sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis. We carried out this study for a year in a population inhabiting riparian habitats in the Atacama Desert in Chile, one of the most climatically stable and driest places in the world. This environment shows minimal yearly change in average temperature and precipitation is virtually zero. We found individuals breeding, molting and overlapping breeding and molt year round, although most individuals were molting during March and in breeding condition during October. T levels were not related to individual breeding condition, and at population level they were not significantly different across sampling months. Baseline levels of CORT did not vary across the year. Stress-induced levels of CORT were suppressed during March when most of the birds were molting. This phenomenon was also observed in birds not molting during this period suggesting a mechanism other than molt in determining the stress-response suppression. Our results strongly suggest that in this study site, long-term extremely stable conditions could have relaxed the selective pressures over the timing of life history stages which was evidenced by the breeding and molt schedules, its overlap and endocrine profiles.


  • Zoology
  • Ecology
  • Corticosterone
  • Desert
  • Endocrine mechanisms
  • Stable environments
  • Testosterone
  • Zonotrichia


  • ISSN: 0016-6480
Vincenzo Ellis
E-mail: vincenzo [dot] alexander_ellis [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Visiting research fellow


Sölvegatan 37, Lund