How Birds Respond to Antioxidant Capacity, Oxidative Damage, and Fuel Stores during Migration

Clara Cooper-Mullin, University of Rhode Island


During migration, birds have an elevated metabolic rate and rely heavily on fat for fuel, creating a state where oxidative stress may be high if not counterbalanced by antioxidants. Luckily, birds (and all air-breathing organisms) have It is unclear how birds utilize different aspects of the antioxidant system to combat oxidative stress during flight, and how oxidative status shapes decisions birds make during migration. I studied how antioxidants, oxidative damage, and fuel stores interact during flight and on stopover. (1) I described the physiological challenges of increased production of reactive species confronted by birds during migration, and the interacting roles of antioxidants in protecting birds from oxidative damage. (2) I then examined how birds respond to the increased oxidative demands of flight by measuring changes in enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants and oxidative damage in individual Zebra Finches across 44 days of flight training. (3) I gavaged Zebra Finches during flight training with a labeled Vitamin E to see if dietary antioxidants actually reach the place of greatest need during flight (the mitochondria), and (4) I experimentally manipulated the condition (fat stores and antioxidant capacity) of wild Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Blackpoll Warblers to determine if these condition measures affect stopover duration and departure directions.

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Recommended Citation

Clara Cooper-Mullin, "How Birds Respond to Antioxidant Capacity, Oxidative Damage, and Fuel Stores during Migration" (2019). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI27664443.