Assessing adaptability and reactive scope: Introducing a new measure and illustrating its use through a case study of environmental stress in forest-living baboons

A. M. MacLarnon, V. Sommer, A. S. Goffe, J. P. Higham, E. Lodge, P. Tkaczynski, C. Ross

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    In order to maintain regulatory processes, animals are expected to be adapted to the range of environmental stressors usually encountered in their environmental niche. The available capacity of their stress responses is termed their reactive scope, which is utilised to a greater or lesser extent to deal with different stressors. Typically, non-invasive hormone assessment is used to measure the physiological stress responses of wild animals, but, for methodological reasons, such measurements are not directly comparable across studies, limiting interpretation. To overcome this constraint, we propose a new measure of the relative strength of stress responses, 'demonstrated reactive scope', and illustrate its use in a study of ecological correlates (climate, food availability) of faecal glucocorticoid (fGC) levels in two forest-living troops of baboons. Results suggest the wild-feeding troop experiences both thermoregulatory and nutritional stress, while the crop-raiding troop experiences only thermoregulatory stress. This difference, together with the crop-raiding troop's lower overall physiological stress levels and lower demonstrated fGC reactive scope, may reflect nutritional stress-buffering in this troop. The relatively high demonstrated fGC reactive scope levels of both troops compared with other baboons and primate species, may reflect their extreme habitat, on the edge of the geographic range for baboons. Demonstrated reactive scope provides a means of gauging the relative strengths of stress responses of individuals, populations, or species under different conditions, enhancing the interpretive capacity of non-invasive studies of stress hormone levels in wild populations, e.g. in terms of animals' adaptive flexibility, the magnitude of their response to anthropogenic change, or the severity of impact of environmental conditions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)10-24
    Number of pages15
    JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
    Volume215
    DOIs
    StatePublished - May 1 2015

    Keywords

    • Allostasis
    • Biogeography
    • Ecological stressors
    • Nutritional constraints
    • Physiological adaptation
    • Primate endocrinology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Animal Science and Zoology
    • Endocrinology

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