To accommodate a migratory life history, migrants express a greater number of physiological and behavioral stages per annum than residents and are thus considered to have higher finite state diversity (FSD). To investigate the physiological mechanisms and constraints associated with migration, direct comparison of two subspecies of White-crowned Sparrow - migrant, Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii and resident, Z.l.nuttalli - were made under common garden conditions of photoperiod and housing, as birds progressed from winter through the vernal life history stages. We tested the hypothesis that migrants (higher FSD) respond differently than residents (lower FSD) to the initial predictive cue, photoperiod, to initiate and integrate the progression of vernal stages of prenuptial molt, migration and development of breeding. If differences in vernal phenology were noted then the basis for the distinctions was considered genetic. Results: 1. residents had a lower threshold to vernal photoperiod with elevations of plasma androgen, growth and development of reproductive structures preceeding migrants, 2. only migrants displayed prenuptial molt, preparations for migration and migratory restlessness, 3. neither baseline nor stress-induced plasma corticosterone differed across subspecies suggesting energetic demands of the common garden were insufficient to induce a differential adrenocortical response in either subspecies highlighting the impact of environmental conditions on corticosterone secretion. Thus, in a common garden, Z.l.gambelii responds differently to the initial predictive cue, photoperiod, to initiate and execute the vernal stages of molt, migration and development of breeding in comparisons to the shared stage of breeding with Z.l.nuttalli confirming a genetic basis for the subspecies differences.
- Received August 17, 2016.
- Accepted January 25, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd