3 years ago

State-dependent behavior alters endocrine–energy relationship: implications for conservation and management

Matthew J. Kauffman, Kevin L. Monteith, Jacob R. Goheen, Brett R. Jesmer
Glucocorticoids (GC) and triiodothyronine (T3) are two endocrine markers commonly used to quantify resource limitation, yet the relationships between these markers and the energetic state of animals has been studied primarily in small-bodied species in captivity. Free-ranging animals, however, adjust energy intake in accordance with their energy reserves, a behavior known as state-dependent foraging. Further, links between life-history strategies and metabolic allometries cause energy intake and energy reserves to be more strongly coupled in small animals relative to large animals. Because GC and T3 may reflect energy intake or energy reserves, state-dependent foraging and body size may cause endocrine–energy relationships to vary among taxa and environments. To extend the utility of endocrine markers to large-bodied, free-ranging animals, we evaluated how state-dependent foraging, energy reserves, and energy intake influenced fecal GC and fecal T3 concentrations in free-ranging moose (Alces alces). Compared with individuals possessing abundant energy reserves, individuals with few energy reserves had higher energy intake and high fecal T3 concentrations, thereby supporting state-dependent foraging. Although fecal GC did not vary strongly with energy reserves, individuals with higher fecal GC tended to have fewer energy reserves and substantially greater energy intake than those with low fecal GC. Consequently, individuals with greater energy intake had both high fecal T3 and high fecal GC concentrations, a pattern inconsistent with previous documentation from captive animal studies. We posit that a positive relationship between GC and T3 may be expected in animals exhibiting state-dependent foraging if GC is associated with increased foraging and energy intake. Thus, we recommend that additional investigations of GC– and T3–energy relationships be conducted in free-ranging animals across a diversity of body size and life-history strategies before these endocrine markers are applied broadly to wildlife conservation and management.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1002/eap.1608

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