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      Annual Hematocrit Profiles in Two Subspecies of White-Crowned Sparrow: A Migrant and a Resident Comparison.

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          Hematocrit is an easily measured parameter that can be used to assess changes in oxygen carrying capacity necessitated by fluctuations in metabolic demands. Most hematocrit studies draw conclusions from changes in hematocrit that occur over a small sampling interval without an understanding of the variation that exists across the annual cycle. White-crowned sparrows provide an excellent model system due to the existence of a resident subspecies (Zonotrichia leucophrys nuttalli) that serves as a natural control for a migrant subspecies (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii). Comparing these two subspecies allows for the investigation of adaptive physiological changes at each life-history stage (i.e., migration, breeding, molt, etc.) in response to changing metabolic demands. Of particular interest, this subspecies comparison, by both calendar month and life-history stage, allows for the separation of adaptive increases in hematocrit due to migration from the natural seasonal variation in hematocrit. Hematocrit levels for males and females ranged throughout the year between 42%-47% and 40%-47% in the resident and between 45%-58% and 45%-56% in the migrant. In both subspecies, hematocrit levels were elevated during the breeding season compared to the nonbreeding season, and levels were reduced in females during egg laying. When grouped by life-history stage, hematocrit levels were always higher in the migrant compared to the resident. During the months in which migration occurred, hematocrit levels were 10%-12% higher in the migrant compared to the resident subspecies. These data suggest differential regulation of hematocrit between the two subspecies that may be attributed to phenotypic plasticity or genetic differences.

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          Author and article information

          Physiol. Biochem. Zool.
          Physiological and biochemical zoology : PBZ
          University of Chicago Press
          April 16 2016
          : 89
          : 1


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