Thyroid Hormones Correlate with Basal Metabolic Rate but Not Field Metabolic Rate in a Wild Bird Species

Jorg Welcker*, Olivier Chastel, Geir W. Gabrielsen, Jerome Guillaumin, Alexander S. Kitaysky, John R. Speakman, Yann Tremblay, Claus Bech

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Thyroid hormones (TH) are known to stimulate in vitro oxygen consumption of tissues in mammals and birds. Hence, in many laboratory studies a positive relationship between TH concentrations and basal metabolic rate (BMR) has been demonstrated whereas evidence from species in the wild is scarce. Even though basal and field metabolic rates (FMR) are often thought to be intrinsically linked it is still unknown whether a relationship between TH and FMR exists. Here we determine the relationship between the primary thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3) with both BMR and FMR in a wild bird species, the black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). As predicted we found a strong and positive relationship between plasma concentrations of T3 and both BMR and mass-independent BMR with coefficients of determination ranging from 0.36 to 0.60. In contrast there was no association of T3 levels with either whole-body or mass-independent FMR (R2 = 0.06 and 0.02, respectively). In accordance with in vitro studies our data suggests that TH play an important role in modulating BMR and may serve as a proxy for basal metabolism in wild birds. However, the lack of a relationship between TH and FMR indicates that levels of physical activity in kittiwakes are largely independent of TH concentrations and support recent studies that cast doubt on a direct linkage between BMR and FMR.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56229
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding: The study was financially supported by the French Polar Institute (IPEV Program 330 to O. Chastel), the Research Council of Norway (project 197192/V40 to JW) and the Norwegian Polar Institute. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

We are indebted to the staff at the Research Station of the French and Norwegian Polar Institutes in Ny-Alesund for logistical support, particularly Frank Delbart, Martin Mellet and Wojtek Moskal, and Frederic Angelier, Charlotte Lassen and Elin Noreen for their help in the field. We thank Andre Lacroix, for his assistance in T3 assay and are grateful to Catherine Hambly and Peter Thomson for technical assistance with the isotope analyses required for the doubly-labeled water method. We thank Celine Clement-Chastel for providing constant support and help to the IPEV Program 330. The study was approved by the Governor of Svalbard and by the Norwegian Animal Research Authority.


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