Thyroid hormones correlate with resting metabolic rate, not daily energy expenditure, in two charadriiform seabirds

Kyle H. Elliott*, Jorg Welcker, Anthony J. Gaston, Scott A. Hatch, Vince Palace, James F. Hare, John R. Speakman, W. Gary Anderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
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Thyroid hormones affect in vitro metabolic intensity, increase basal metabolic rate (BMR) in the lab, and are sometimes correlated with basal and/or resting metabolic rate (RMR) in a field environment. Given the difficulty of measuring metabolic rate in the field-and the likelihood that capture and long-term restraint necessary to measure metabolic rate in the field jeopardizes other measurements-we examined the possibility that circulating thyroid hormone levels were correlated with RMR in two free-ranging bird species with high levels of energy expenditure (the black-legged kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla, and thick-billed murre, Uria lomvia). Because BMR and daily energy expenditure (DEE) are purported to be linked, we also tested for a correlation between thyroid hormones and DEE. We examined the relationships between free and bound levels of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) with DEE and with 4-hour long measurements of post-absorptive and thermoneutral resting metabolism (resting metabolic rate; RMR). RMR but not DEE increased with T3 in both species; both metabolic rates were independent of T4. T3 and T4 were not correlated with one another. DEE correlated with body mass in kittiwakes but not in murres, presumably owing to the larger coefficient of variation in body mass during chick rearing for the more sexually dimorphic kittiwakes. We suggest T3 provides a good proxy for resting metabolism but not DEE in these seabird species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-586
Number of pages7
JournalOpen Biology
Issue number6
Early online date15 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

K. Woo, M. Le Vaillant, T. van Nus, and especially A. Wesphal, J. Schultner and I. Dorresteijn, assisted with field work, often under unpleasant conditions. K. Wauthier was instrumental in wrestling the gamma counter into submission. P. Redman and C. Hambly conducted the isotopic analyses. K. Scott and K. Campbell provided the FoxBox. K.H.E. benefited from a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Vanier Scholarship, Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies Garfield Weston Northern Studies Award and the Arctic Institute of North America Jennifer Robinson Scholarship. Research support came from Bird Studies Canada/Society of Canadian Ornithologists James Baillie Award, Animal Behavior Society Research Grant, American Ornithologists’ Union Research Grant, Frank Chapman Research
Grant, the Waterbird Society Nisbet Grant and NSERC Discovery Grants to J.F.H. and W.G.A. Any use of trade names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.


  • Daily energy expenditure
  • Resting metabolic rate
  • Thyroxine
  • Triiodothyronine


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