....a model system
for the evolution of body size
The field work in Galapagos is supported by an NSF LTREB grant from 2006-2011.
Collaborative research: Monitoring stress and survival in Galapagos Marine iguanas
By Martin Wikelski ( Princeton University) and Michael Romero ( Tufts University)
Many animal populations experience catastrophic population declines which are often caused by natural or human-induced changes in environmental conditions such as climate change or habitat alteration. In response to environment disasters, all vertebrate animals show a stress response that involves the secretion of the stress hormone (corticosterone/cortisol) into the blood. It is so far unclear whether and how a stress response helps individuals to survive, and whether a low or a high stress response is better. The main problem is that it is very hard to study dying animals in the wild. Here professors Wikelski and Romero make use of the fact that Galapagos marine iguanas repeatedly experience natural catastrophes (El Niños) but at the same time are tame and can easily be observed as they die. The researchers will assess the stress response of individuals before a catastrophe and test what kind of a stress response helps individuals most to survive. This research will be put into the context of a 25-year data set that will be made public.
The results of this study will significantly advance the understanding of how vertebrates physiologically deal with catastrophic events in their environment. This project will also educate the public via TV shows and publications, foster scientific exchange between Latin American and US researchers and provide advanced training for undergraduate and graduate students.