Human disturbance alters endocrine and immune responses in the Galapagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)

Susannah S. French, Dale Denardo, Timothy J. Greives, Christine R. Strand, Gregory E. Demas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations

Abstract

Anthropogenic disturbance is a relevant and widespread facilitator of environmental change and there is clear evidence that it impacts natural populations. While population-level responses to major anthropogenic changes have been well studied, individual physiological responses to mild disturbance can be equally critical to the long-term survival of a species, yet they remain largely unexamined. The current study investigated the impact of seemingly low-level anthropogenic disturbance (ecotourism) on stress responsiveness and specific fitness-related immune measures in different breeding stages of the marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). Specifically, we found stress-induced elevations in plasma corticosterone among tourist-exposed populations relative to undisturbed populations. We also found changes in multiple immunological responses associated with stress-related effects of human disturbance, including bacterial killing ability, cutaneous wound healing, and hemolytic complement activity, and the responses varied according to reproductive state. By identifying health-related consequences of human disturbance, this study provides critical insight into the conservation of a well-known species that has a very distinct ecology. The study also broadens the foundation of knowledge needed to understand the global significance of various levels of human disturbance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-799
Number of pages8
JournalHormones and Behavior
Volume58
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2010

Keywords

  • Corticosterone
  • Immunity
  • Reproduction
  • Tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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