Regulation of vernal migration in Gambel's white-crowned sparrows: Role of thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Appropriate timing of migratory behavior is critical for migrant species. For many temperate zone birds in the spring, lengthening photoperiod is the initial cue leading to morphological, physiological and behavior changes that are necessary for vernal migration and breeding. Strong evidence has emerged in recent years linking thyroid hormone signaling to the photoinduction of breeding in birds while more limited information suggest a potential role in the regulation of vernal migration in photoperiodic songbirds. Here we investigate the development and expression of the vernal migratory life history stage in captive Gambel's white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii) in a hypothyroidic state, induced by chemical inhibition of thyroid hormone production. To explore possible variations in the effects of the two thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine and thyroxine, we subsequently performed a thyroid inhibition coupled with replacement therapy. We found that chemical inhibition of thyroid hormones resulted in complete abolishment of mass gain, fattening, and muscle hypertrophy associated with migratory preparation as well as resulting in failure to display nocturnal restlessness behavior. Replacement of thyroxine rescued all of these elements to near control levels while triiodothyronine replacement displayed partial or delayed rescue. Our findings support thyroid hormones as being necessary for the expression of changes in morphology and physiology associated with migration as well as migratory behavior itself.

publication date

  • August 2016