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Independence among physiological traits suggests flexibility in the face of ecological demands on phenotypes
Buehler, D.M.; Vézina, F.; Goymann, W.; Schwabl, I.; Versteegh, M.; Tieleman, B.I.; Piersma, T. (2012). Independence among physiological traits suggests flexibility in the face of ecological demands on phenotypes. J. Evolution. Biol. 25(8): 1600-1613. dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1420-9101.2012.02543.x
In: Journal of Evolutionary Biology. European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB): Basel. ISSN 1010-061X, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
Author keywords
    basal metabolic rate; constitutive immune function; corticosterone;flexible phenotype; haematocrit; pace-of-life; shorebirds

Authors  Top 
  • Buehler, D.M.
  • Vézina, F.
  • Goymann, W.
  • Schwabl, I.
  • Versteegh, M.
  • Tieleman, B.I.
  • Piersma, T., more

Abstract
    Phenotypic flexibility allows animals to adjust their physiology to diverse environmental conditions encountered over the year. Examining how these varying traits covary gives insights into potential constraints or freedoms that may shape evolutionary trajectories. In this study, we examined relationships among haematocrit, baseline corticosterone concentration, constitutive immune function and basal metabolic rate in red knot Calidris canutus islandica individuals subjected to experimentally manipulated temperature treatments over an entire annual cycle. If covariation among traits is constrained, we predict consistent covariation within and among individuals. We further predict consistent correlations between physiological and metabolic traits if constraints underlie species-level patterns found along the slow-fast pace-of-life continuum. We found no consistent correlations among haematocrit, baseline corticosterone concentration, immune function and basal metabolic rate either within or among individuals. This provides no evidence for constraints limiting relationships among these measures of the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and metabolic systems in individual red knots. Rather, our data suggest that knots are free to adjust individual parts of their physiology independently. This makes good sense if one places the animal within its ecological context where different aspects of the environment might put different pressures on different aspects of physiology.

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