Excreted corticosterone metabolites co-vary with ambient temperature and air pressure in male Greylag geese (Anser anser)

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2004 May 15;137(1):29-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2004.02.013.


In many species, seasonal activities such as reproduction or migration need to be fine-tuned with weather conditions. Air pressure and temperature changes are the best parameters for such conditions. Adapting to climatic changes invariably involves physiological and behavioral reactions associated with the adrenals. In the present study, we investigated the effects of ambient temperature and air pressure on excreted immuno-reactive metabolites of corticosterone (BM) and androgens (AM). Focal individuals were 14 paired male greylag geese (Anser anser) from a semi-tame, unrestrained flock. BM and AM were measured in individual fecal samples over 25 days in November and December. Two different ACTH-validated assays were used for the assessment of BM: the first one cross-reacting with 11beta,21-diol-20-one structures ("old assay") and the second one with 5beta,3alpha,11beta-diol structures ("new assay"). With the "new assay," BM correlated negatively with the minimum ambient temperature of the night before, which may reflect corticosterone involvement in thermoregulation. BM also correlated positively with the minimum air pressure of the previous afternoon, which supports the value of air pressure for predicting weather conditions. Together, these reactions suggest a role of the adrenals in responding behaviorally and physiologically to changes in weather. Preliminary analysis indicated a higher sensitivity to the excreted glucocorticosteroid metabolites in the "new assay." As expected for outside the mating season, no relationships were found between excreted AM and the weather parameters considered. The gradual changes in BM excretion in parallel with weather conditions may be part of the fine-tuning of physiology and behavior by environmental clues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / pharmacology
  • Air Pressure
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • Corticosterone / metabolism*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Geese / physiology*
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Male
  • Steroids / metabolism
  • Temperature
  • Weather


  • Androgens
  • Steroids
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticosterone