The hormone ghrelin: Is it a key player in regulating performance, fuel metabolism and decision-making in migratory birds?

The hormone ghrelin, a peptide produced by the digestive tract, is involved in the control of energy homeostasis and food intake in vertebrates. Our group recently uncovered evidence of a major role of ghrelin in controlling decisions and behavior during stopover in a migratory passerine species.  The overarching aim of this project is to investigate the role of ghrelin on flight performance, fuel metabolism, and decision-making processes in migratory passerines. Specifically, what are the effects of endurance flight on plasma ghrelin and ghrelin expression in the digestive tract? Does ghrelin mediate the switch from a high rate of lean mass catabolism early in flight to fuel metabolism dominated by fat oxidation during endurance flight? Does the ghrelin system regulate actual migratory behavior, i.e. departure timing and migratory strategy? The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, and Western University, Canada cooperate in this project and provide a wide and complementary set of expertise in the field of avian eco-physiology and endocrinology. The opportunity of using state-of-the-art methodologies, such as an hypobaric climatic wind tunnel and an automated radio telemetry system, will be determinant for broadening our knowledge of the hormonal systems controlling avian migration.


Funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Global Fellowship SEP-210464022


PI: Sara Lupi
Co-PI: Leonida Fusani
Co-PI: Christopher Guglielmo, University of Western Ontario, Canada
Co-PI: Scott MacDougall-Shackleton
, University of Western Ontario, Canada