Date of Award

Winter 12-17-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Laura Carruth

Abstract

The Australian Zebra Finch, Taeniopygia guttata, is a common vertebrate model for understanding behavioral, neurological, and physiological changes across the life span. The goal of this study was to determine if color in the environment can act as a stimulus and activate the zebra finch stress response. Zebra finches are diurnal and have color vision. Their plumage coloration is sexually dimorphic and they show behavioral changes to color; females prefer males with redder beaks, and both sexes show individual color preferences for materials in nest building. This experiment was conducted to test whether or not a novel color in the environment can elicit a stress response. A colored poster board was introduced to the adult zebra finches’ habitat, and behavioral changes were measured immediately and then again after twenty four hours. In addition, plasma corticosterone (CORT), the main avian stress hormone, concentrations were measured twenty four hours after introduction of the color stimulus. The introduction of the color stimuli resulted in immediate behavioral changes in the birds and increased activity was observed with the addition of green, blue, and red stimuli and decreased activity with the addition of yellow. However, after twenty four hours there were no changes in behavior or plasma CORT levels for any of the colors. These findings suggest that zebra finches show varied behavioral responses to novel stimuli based on color differences and that these changes are temporary.

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