GANGLOFF & GREENBERG (2021) Biology of Stress

Gangloff, E. & N. Greenberg (in press 2021) Biology of Stress. in Theory and Practice. In: Health and Welfare of Captive Reptiles, 2nd Edition. C. Warwick, P.C. Arena, G.M. Burghardt (Editors) Cham, Switzerland: Springer.




The concept of stress is difficult to define, despite its ubiquity in both common parlance and the scientific literature. Given the clear importance of understanding how organisms deal with challenging environments in both natural and husbandry contexts, examining the relationships among stressors and the stress response is essential to working with both captive and wild reptiles. In this chapter, we outline historical and contemporary concepts of stress, with an emphasis on how these ideas can inform our approaches to caring for reptiles in captive contexts and decision-making in a management context. This includes a description of the physiological stress response systems, with example studies that have improved our understandings of the mechanisms and indicators of the stress response in reptiles. Furthermore, we demonstrate how the stress response is manifest in other aspects of organismal function, including social interactions, reproduction, and immunity. We recognize that the stress response is an aspect of the functioning of healthy individuals and that pathology emerges only when stressors are repeated, sustained, or extreme. Finally, we describe new directions that may provide useful data and techniques to facilitate the identification of stress and mitigation of negative effects. Throughout this chapter, we emphasize the need to examine stress in reptiles from a reptilian point of view, adopting an ethological approach to see the world through the organisms’ perspective. Given the vastly different physiological needs and sensory systems of reptiles compared to humans, and within reptilian taxa, such an approach necessitates the use of data-driven decisions based on empirical research. We summarize recent work to facilitate both a theoretical understanding of stress and the mechanistic function of the stress response to inform our continually improving care of captive reptiles.



Adaptive scope, Allostasis, Catecholamines, Glucocorticoids, Homeostasis, Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, Stress, Sympathetic adrenomedullary axis