Quantifying the autonomic response to stressors – one way to expand the definition of  "stress" in animals

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icaa009. This is version 1 of this Preprint.

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Matt Gaidica, Ben Dantzer


Quantifying the impact of changes or stimuli in the external and internal environment that are challenging (“stressors”) to whole organisms is difficult. To date, physiological ecologists and ecological physiologists have mostly used measures of glucocorticoids (GCs) to assess the impact of stressors on animals. This is of course too simplistic as Hans Seyle himself characterized the response of organisms to “noxious stimuli” using multiple physiological responses. Possible solutions include increasing the number of biomarkers to more accurately characterize the “stress state” of animal or just measuring different biomarkers to more accurately characterize the degree of acute or chronic stressors an animal is experiencing. We focus on the latter and discuss how heart rate (HR) heart rate variability (HRV) may be better predictors of the degree of activation of the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary system and complement or even replace measures of GCs as indicators of animal health, welfare, fitness, or their level of exposure to stressors. The miniaturization of biological sensor technology (“bio-sensors” or “bio-loggers”) presents an opportunity to reassess measures of stress and develop new approaches. We describe some modern approaches to gathering these HR and HRV data in free-living animals with the aim that heart dynamics will be more integrated with measures of GCs as bio-markers of stress and predictors of fitness in free-living animals.




Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Endocrinology, Life Sciences, Physiology, Systems Biology


bio-logging, biomarkers, ecology, ecophysiology, fitness, glucocorticoids, heart rate, heart rate variability, Stress, technology


Published: 2019-11-07 11:50


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