Meeting Abstract

62.4  Friday, Jan. 6  Heart rate response of molting and non-molting European starlings to artificial rain and cooling DE BRUIJN, R*; MERULLO, D; ROMERO, LM; Tufts University, Medford, MA

Free-ranging animals continuously need to adjust to changes in their environment. One of the most unpredictable environmental phenomena that an animal has to cope with is inclement weather, which may consist of changes in temperature and precipitation. Being able to appropriately respond to changes in weather is crucial as weather often reduces an animal’s opportunity to forage and can be a serious threat to survival. We have previously shown that animals exposed to a rapid 30 min decrease in temperature show an acute stress response. This study investigated the heart rate response of European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) to a short, 30-minute, burst of artificial rain. The birds were exposed to three additional 30-minute trials: a 4 °C decrease in temperature; a combined exposure to rain and room temperature wind; and a combination of rain with a 4 °C decrease in temperature. Eighteen birds were used, eight of which were molting. Both molting and non-molting birds responded to all trials with an increase in heart rate and the heart rate responses of the animals were similar across trials. We conclude that both a minor change in temperature and exposure to rain elicit an acute stress response in these animals, but that combining such stressors does not elicit a stronger response. These results suggest that the response to acute stressors such as those used in this study may be an important mechanism by which animals cope with minor rapid environmental changes.