Do smart birds stress less? An interspecific relationship between brain size and corticosterone levels

Ádám Z. Lendvai, Veronika Bókony, Frédéric Angelier, Olivier Chastel, Daniel Sol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Vertebrates respond to unpredictable noxious environmental stimuli by increasing secretion of glucocorticoids (CORT). Although this hormonal stress response is adaptive, high levels of CORT may induce significant costs if stressful situations are frequent. Thus, alternative coping mechanisms that help buffer individuals against environmental stressors may be selected for when the costs of CORT levels are elevated. By allowing individuals to identify, anticipate and cope with the stressful circumstances, cognition may enable stress-specific behavioural coping. Although there is evidence that behavioural responses allowanimals to cope with stressful situations, it is unclear whether or not cognition reduces investment in the neuroendocrine stress response. Here, we report that in birds, species with larger brains relative to their body size showlower baseline and peakCORTlevels than species with smaller brains. This relationship is consistent across life-history stages, and cannot be accounted for by differences in life history and geographical latitude. Because a large brain is a major feature of birds that base their lifetime in learning new things, our results support the hypothesis that enhanced cognition represents a general alternative to the neuroendocrine stress response.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20131734
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume280
Issue number1770
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 11 2013

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Keywords

  • Brain size
  • Cognition
  • Innovation
  • Phylogenetic comparative analysis
  • Stress response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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