Most organisms live in seasonal environments that fluctuate on a predictable schedule and sometimes unpredictably. Individuals must, therefore, adjust so as to maximize their survival and reproductive success over a wide range of environmental conditions. In birds, as in other vertebrates, endocrine secretions regulate morphological, physiological, and behavioral changes in anticipation of future events. The individual thus prepares for predictable fluctuations in its environment by changing life-cycle stages. We have applied finite-state machine theory to define and compare different life-history cycles. The ability of birds to respond to predictable and unpredictable regimes of environmental variation may be constrained by the adaptability of their endocrine control systems. We have applied several theoretical approaches to natural history data of birds to compare the complexity of life cycles, the degree of plasticity of timing of stages within the cycle, and to determine whether endocrine control mechanisms influence the way birds respond to their environments. The interactions of environmental cues on the timing of life-history stages are not uniform in all populations. Taking the reproductive life-history stage as an example, arctic birds that have short breeding seasons in severe environments appear to use one reliable environmental cue to time reproduction and they ignore other factors. Birds having longer breeding seasons exhibit greater plasticity of onset and termination and appear to integrate several environmental cues. Theoretical approaches may allow us to predict how individuals respond to their environment at the proximate level and, conversely, predict how constraints imposed by endocrine control systems may limit the complexity of life cycles.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.
Vol. 102 • No. 1