The American Physiological Society Press Release

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APS Contact: Stacy Brooks


Phone: 301.634.7209

Twitter: @APSPhysiology

Penguins Use Their Personalities to Prepare for Climate Change

San Diego (October 8, 2014)—As the global climate continues to change, the ability of many animal species to adapt is being put to the test. Bird populations may be at particular risk. According to the Audubon Society, nearly half of all North American bird species are severely threatened by shifts in climate. The threat reaches beyond North America and could have similar effects on global bird populations.



 Little penguins’ personalities may help
them cope with climate change



John Cockrem of the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedial Sciences at Massey University in New Zealand suggests that a bird’s individual personality may be among the factors that could improve its chances of successfully coping with environmental stressors. He studied differences in the level of the stress hormone corticosterone that native little penguins (Eudyptula minor) secreted when exposed to stressful stimulus.

“There is considerable individual variation in corticosterone responses, and a stimulus that initiates a large response in one bird may initiate a small response in another bird,” Cockrem wrote. “Corticosterone responses and behavioural responses to environmental stimuli are together determined by individual characteristics called personality.  Birds with low corticosterone responses and proactive personalities are likely to be more successful (have greater fitness) in constant or predictable conditions, whilst birds with reactive personalities and high corticosterone responses will be more successful in changing or unpredictable conditions.” 

These findings may help in predicting the adaptability of bird species as they face a new normal. Cockrem will present the talk “Corticosterone responses and the ability of birds to cope with environmental change” at the American Physiological Society (APS) intersociety meeting “Comparative Approaches to Grand Challenges in Physiology” on October 8, 2014.

APS jointly hosts this intersociety meeting with the Society for Experimental BiologySociety for Integrative and Comparative BiologyAustralian and New Zealand Society for Comparative Physiology and BiochemistryCanadian Society of ZoologistsCrustacean Society and International Society for Neuroethology. View the full program:

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To receive a full list of abstracts to be presented at the meeting or to arrange interviews with comparative researchers, please contact Stacy Brooks in the APS Office of Communications (301-634-7209;

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 11,000 members and publishes 14 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.



Animal Physiology: A Looking Glass into Health, Disease and Environmental Adaptation

Released September 24, 2014 - New research, featured symposia and information on plenary sessions and workshops to be presented at the 2014 Comparative Approaches to Grand Challenges in Physiology meeting in San Diego. View the full meeting program at

#CompPhys2014 Workshops Address Unconventional Careers in Science, Teaching in the IPhone Era

Released October 6, 2014 - The APS meeting “Comparative Approaches to Grand Challenges in Physiology” will feature workshops addressing two challenges facing physiologists today: finding a job and teaching physiology in the age of the smartphone.

Getting the Most out of Aquaculture: Pearls of Wisdom from Farmed Oysters

Released October 6, 2014 - Australian researchers are fitting oysters with biosensors to measure how they respond to changing environmental conditions or stressors on aquaculture farms. Their results have implications for achieving and maintaining ideal conditions for targeted species in aquatic environments.