Seasonal and predator influences on adrenal function in adult Steller sea lions: gender matters

General and Comparative Endocrinology
Kendall L Mashburn, Shannon Atkinson


Chronically heightened adrenal activity indexed by fecal corticosteroids has been shown to be a valid descriptor of stress in many species. As part of an ongoing investigation of adrenal activity in Steller sea lions (SSL), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenges were performed during the summer at the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC). These results were compared to earlier data from winter months. Additionally, adrenal response of free-ranging females SSL to a presumed in situ stressor, pup predation by killer whales (Orcinus orca), was evaluated as a field trial of developed methodologies. Summer ACTH results indicated that gender-dependent differences in baseline fecal corticosterone concentrations exist, with summer baseline fecal corticosterone concentrations higher in males than in females, based on season when compared with previously reported values in winter ACTH trials for this species. ACTH trials in the male in the summer resulted in 2468 ng/g basal to 10,937 ng/g maximal fecal corticosterone concentrations, a fourfold change. Female 1 exhibited a 30.5-fold increase 24 h post-ACTH stimulation (27.9-852.0 ng/g dry weight), with a return to just above baseline concentrations by hour 25. Additionally, female 2 exhibi...Continue Reading


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Adrenal Glands
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