Does sex matter? Differential responses to corticosterone administration in the zebra finch Academic Article uri icon


  • Because of potentially deleterious effects of chronic stress, physiological measurements of stress hormones (in birds, corticosterone (CORT)) are often used to determine the consequences of natural or human-induced change. Often, it is assumed that CORT levels will be similar between the sexes and the results are pooled. However, recent studies have reported sex differences in CORT concentrations in avian species. As zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) are one of the most widely used bird species in laboratory studies worldwide, potential sex-specific differences in hormone metabolism, as well as the clearance rate of oral doses of exogenous CORT, are highly relevant. The results of this study show that female zebra finches have a significantly higher baseline CORT than males, which could partially be a product of differential responses to semi-isolation. In addition, a single dose of exogenous CORT resulted in different blood profiles between the sexes over time, though exogenous CORT was cleared from blood within 90 min following treatment in both sexes. Interestingly, exposure to multiple doses of exogenous CORT resulted in elevated CORT levels 24h after treatment in both sexes. These results highlight the need for further investigations into potential sex differences in hormone metabolism, as well as possible cumulative effects of repeated stress.

publication date

  • October 2013