The research interest of our group is in trying to understand the ways in which animals are physiologically organized depending on the environment in which they live. We focus on three physiological systems: i) reproduction, ii) endocrine control mechanisms, and iii) the circadian system. To study physiological adaptations, we compare bird populations across latitudes, both intraspecifically (using great tit, Parus major, populations across Europe) and interspecifically (temperate versus tropical birds). The research integrates physiology, ecology and evolution and is aimed at a functional understanding of short- and long-term animal-environment interactions.
Innovative visualization of our data on great tits
Our study on the changes in stress hormones in great tits due to temperature fluctuations was published in 2022. The data generated in this project has now been visualized as part of the "Visual Analytics" course at Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences under the supervision of Professor Kay Schröder. Student Evi Hoang took on the challenge of visualizing the data in an innovative way to make it more accessible and interactive. Her website creates a new approach to our paper and its data, and can help to make the research more appealing to people who have not had the courage to approach scientific topics before.
(Illustration: Evi Hoang / Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences)
Do hormone fluctuations increase survival probabilities?
Great tits reveal how birds cope with changes in environmental temperatures
Congratulations to Dr. Eve Udino, who received a 2-year Alexander-von-Humboldt-postdoc fellowship to work in our group
Berries regulate metabolic stress in migratory birds
Migratory starlings are avian athletes that fly long distances in conditions that can push them very close to their physiological limits. Glucocorticoids are hormones that increase during endurance exercise to provide ready-to-use fuel to satisfy the high energy demands; however, prolonged exposure to high glucocorticoids is detrimental. A new study of researchers from Seewiesen, the US and Poland with European starlings in the wind tunnel show that dietary anthocyanins – antioxidants present in colored berries selected by birds especially during migration –control excessive secretion of glucocorticoids when birds are flying for long durations. This supports the novel idea that dietary anthocyanins have important metabolic functions that also attenuate the endocrine stress response triggered by endurance flight.
Stefania Casagrande, Kristen J. DeMoranville, Lisa Trost, Barbara Pierce, Amadeusz Bryla, Maciej Dzialo, Edyta T. Sadowska, Ulf Bauchinger, and Scott R. McWilliams, "Dietary antioxidants attenuate the endocrine stress response during long-duration flight of a migratory bird," Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 287 (1929), 20200744 (2020).
Do thyroid hormones help birds to adjust to changes in environmental conditions?
Thyroid hormones are essential for maintaining homeostasis, as well as adjusting metabolic rate and thermoregulation in vertebrates exposed to variations in environmental conditions. This project will test the hypothesis that average concentrations of thyroid hormones as well as their plastic up- or downregulation during energetically challenging situations determines individual fitness.
Kasja Malkoc received funding by the IMPRS (International Max Planck Research School), DO-G (Deutsche Ornithologen-Gesellschaft) and SICB (Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology), to study thyroid hormones in great tits (Parus major) in laboratory and field conditions.’’
Award for research group leader Michaela Hau
Research group leader Michaela Hau gave this year's Howard Bern Lecture at the annual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). This is a special award for scientists who have done significant research in the field of comparative endocrinology. Michaela Hau is honored for her research on free-living great tits, in which she measures stress hormones (corticosteroids) in response to environmental inputs, and the resultant effects on traits such as reproductive success, metabolic rate, behavior, and flight performance. Her research ultimately aims to evaluate how fast physiological systems can evolve.
Telomere attrition: Metabolic regulation and signaling function?
Stress hormones increase during high energy expenditure
The substances that great tit females put into their eggs
New Review of the research group about hormonal flexibility
In a new review, Michael Hau & colleagues explore the role of hormonal flexibility as a mechanism that allows animals to cope with changing temperatures. They discuss this over long and short time periods and different hierarchical levels (like populations, species or individuals). Art by Julia Kuhl @mulesome