Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2016 Jul 1;233:109-14
Glucocorticoids can play a critical role in modulating life-history trade-offs. However, studying the effects of glucocorticoids on life-history often requires experimentally elevating plasma glucocorticoid concentrations for several weeks within normal physiological limits and without repeated handling of the animal.
Recently, implants made of beeswax and testosterone (T) were shown to have release dynamics superior to some currently available T implants, and these beeswax implants dissolved, eliminating the need to recapture the animal. We evaluated the utility of beeswax implants containing four different dosages of corticosterone (CORT; the primary glucocorticoid in birds) and their effect on several condition indices in a captive colony of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). The three implants with the greatest CORT doses (0.05, 0.1, and 0.5mg) produced spikes in plasma CORT concentrations 20h after treatment, but were within the limits that zebra finches may normally experience. The 0.5mg CORT implant elevated plasma CORT between typical baseline and restraint stress levels reported in other studies of zebra finches for the entire 35day experiment. Birds in the 0.5mg implant group were heavier, had greater furcular fat scores, and had lower hematocrit than birds in the control and other CORT implant groups.
Beeswax CORT implants are a low cost method of elevating plasma CORT for a prolonged time. Furthermore, because there is no need to remove these implants at the end of a study, this method may be amenable to studies of free-ranging animals.