Study suggests bigger brains in birds translates to less stress

center_img For young birds, getting stressed out can be a good thing More information: Do smart birds stress less? An interspecific relationship between brain size and corticosterone levels, Published 11 September 2013 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1734AbstractVertebrates 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 allow animals 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 show lower baseline and peak CORT levels 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. Journal information: Proceedings of the Royal Society B This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img

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