Meeting Abstract

S6-1.5  Sunday, Jan. 6  The role of the stress axis in coping with chronic uncertainty BOONSTRA, R.; University of Toronto Scarborough boonstra@utsc.utoronto.ca

The adaptations animals have in the natural world are solutions to ecological problems to which they have a long evolutionary history. The stress axis is a vital regulator of that adaptation. Animals in nature experience periods of long-term uncertainty because of lack of food, severe weather, high predator threat, social conflict, and so on. However, only some species are chronically stressed by these factors – showing chronic changes in their physiology, reproduction, and condition; others deal with a stressor acutely and then go back to the business of living. I will present evidence that the stress axis in the first group continues to function remarkably well. The difference between chronic and acute responses of the two groups may be related to their life history. Though the biomedical literature and most of the literature on natural populations regard chronic stress-induced changes as pathological, I will argue that these changes are adaptive and ultimately promote an animal’s survival and reproductive success.