Long-term and transgenerational effects of stress experienced during different life phases in chickens (Gallus gallus)

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Abstract

© 2016 Ericsson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Stress in animals causes not only immediate reactions, but may affect their biology for long periods, even across generations. Particular interest has been paid to perinatal stress, but also adolescence has been shown to be a sensitive period in mammals. So far, no systematic study has been performed of the relative importance of stress encountered during different life phases. In this study, groups of chickens were exposed to a six-day period of repeated stress during three different life phases: early (two weeks), early puberty (eight weeks) and late puberty (17 weeks), and the effects were compared to an unstressed control group. The short-term effects were assessed by behaviour, and the long-term and transgenerational effects were determined by effects on behavior and corticosterone secretion, as well as on hypothalamic gene expression. Short-term effects were strongest in the two week group and the eight week group, whereas long-term and transgenerational effects were detected in all three stress groups. However, stress at different ages affected different aspects of the biology of the chickens, and it was not possible to determine a particularly sensitive life phase. The results show that stress during puberty appears to be at least equally critical as the previously studied early life phase. These findings may have important implications for animal welfare in egg production, since laying hens are often exposed to stress during the three periods pinpointed here.

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Ericsson, M., Henriksen, R., Bélteky, J., Sundman, A. S., Shionoya, K., & Jensen, P. (2016). Long-term and transgenerational effects of stress experienced during different life phases in chickens (Gallus gallus). PLoS ONE, 11(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0153879

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