CIE Spotlight: Multiscale Evaluation of Thermal Dependence in the Glucocorticoid Response of Vertebrates

Tim J.
Tim J.

Authors: Jessop, Tim S.; Lane, Meagan L.; Teasdale, Luisa; Stuart-Fox, Devi; Wilson, Robbie S.; Careau, Vincent; Moore, Ignacio T.

Source: AMERICAN NATURALIST, 188 (3):342-356, SEP 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Environmental temperature has profound effects on animal physiology, ecology, and evolution. Glucocorticoid (GC) hormones, through effects on phenotypic performance and life history, provide fundamental vertebrate physiological adaptations to environmental variation, yet we lack a comprehensive understanding of how temperature influences GC regulation in vertebrates.

Using field studies and meta- and comparative phylogenetic analyses, we investigated how acute change and broadscale variation in temperature correlated with baseline and stress-induced GC levels. Glucocorticoid levels were found to be temperature and taxon dependent, but generally, vertebrates exhibited strong positive correlations with acute changes in temperature. Furthermore, reptile baseline, bird baseline, and capture stress-induced GC levels to some extent covaried with broadscale environmental temperature.

Thus, vertebrate GC function appears clearly thermally influenced. However, we caution that lack of detailed knowledge of thermal plasticity, heritability, and the basis for strong phylogenetic signal in GC responses limits our current understanding of the role of GC hormones in species’ responses to current and future climate variation.