Integrating oxidative ecology into conservation physiology
Polito, Michael J.
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Ecologists have recently shown great interest in using physiological markers as indicators of the health of animal populations. In this context, the measurement of markers of oxidative balance, such as antioxidant defences and oxidative damage, may be a valuable tool. Indeed, at the individual level, antioxidant defences are positively associated with fertility and survival probability, while elevated oxidative damage during reproduction or growth may negatively affect recruitment and survival. Therefore, variation in oxidative balance is likely to influence demographic processes. This suggests that conservationists may be able to use oxidative markers to monitor population health. Yet, the connection between these markers and demographic parameters first needs to be established. We present here preliminary results obtained in colonies of breeding Gentoo (Pygoscelis papua) and Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae), showing that antioxidant defences strongly reflect population trends. However, population trend was not related to oxidative damage. This suggests that in the context of the emerging field of conservation physiology, antioxidant defences may represent a key parameter to monitor population health. We therefore exhort other research teams to assess the generality of this finding in other biological models, especially in species of conservation concern.
© The Author(s), 2013. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Conservation Physiology 1 (2013): cot004, doi: 10.1093/conphys/cot004.
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