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The relationship between daily behavior, hormones, and a color dimorphism in a seabird under natural continuous light

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  • Nicholas Per Huffeldt
  • Anna Tigano, University of New Hampshire
  • ,
  • Kjell Einar Erikstad, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • ,
  • Wolfgang Goymann, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
  • ,
  • Susanne Jenni-Eiermann, Swiss Ornithological Institute
  • ,
  • Truls Moum, Nord University
  • ,
  • Tone Kristin Reiertsen, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

The predictable oscillation between the light of day and the dark of night across the diel cycle is a powerful selective force that has resulted in anticipatory mechanisms in nearly all taxa. At polar latitude, however, this oscillation becomes highly attenuated during the continuous light of polar day during summer. A general understanding of how animals keep time under these conditions is poorly understood. We tested the hypothesis that the common murre (a seabird, Uria aalge) can use melatonin and corticosterone, hormones associated with timekeeping, to track the diel cycle despite continuous light. We also tested the assumption that common murres breeding during polar summer schedule their colony attendance by time of day and sex, as they do at subpolar latitude. In the Atlantic population, common murres have a plumage color dimorphism associated with fitness-related traits, and we investigated the relationship of this dimorphism with colony attendance, melatonin, and corticosterone. The common murres did not schedule their attendance behavior by time of day or sex, yet they had higher concentrations of melatonin and, to a more limited extent, corticosterone during “night” than “day”. Melatonin also linked to behavioral state. The two color morphs tended to have different colony-attendance behavior and melatonin concentrations, lending support for balancing selection maintaining the plumage dimorphism. In common murres, melatonin can signal time of day despite continuous light, and the limited diel variation of corticosterone contributes to the mounting evidence that polar-adapted birds and mammals require little or no diel variation in circulating glucocorticoids during polar day.

TidsskriftHormones and Behavior
StatusUdgivet - apr. 2021

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
Field- and lab-work were partially supported by Vecellio Grants for Graduate Research, Wake Forest University, USA to N.P.H. and SEAPOP (seapop.no) to K.E.E. and T.K.R. The funding sources did not have any role in study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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