Lakušić M, Billy G, Bjelica V, Golubović A, Anđelković M, Bonnet X


Theoretically, animals integrate intrinsic and extrinsic factors to respond appropriately to the wide range of stressors they encounter during their life span. We examined how stress response varies between sexes and among morphotypes in wild dice snakes (Natrix tessellata). We also considered reproductive and feeding status and antipredator behavior. We used two indicators of stress (glucose [GLUC] and corticosterone [CORT] levels) at eight sampling time intervals (immediately after capture, up to 17 h after) and a large sample size (N=113 snakes). Concentrations of both markers increased sharply after capture (an equivalent of predation). This acute phase occurred earlier for GLUC (30 min) compared to CORT (60 min). Then the values plateaued to very high levels without decline over time, indicating prolonged saturation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. In contrast to our expectations, we found no effect of sex, morphotype, or reproductive status. Yet the CORT stress response of those individuals displaying death-feigning (DF) antipredator behavior was attenuated compared to those that did not. Low stress hormones levels may facilitate the expression of DF (high levels supporting fleeing behavior). The presence of partially digested material in the stomach was associated with higher blood GLUC during the plateau. Assaying blood GLUC requires very little blood but was as good as CORT at gauging acute stress response. The prolonged plateau suggests that captivity should be minimized during field studies.


Journal: Physiological and Biochemical Zoology

Link: 10.1086/711958