HSP90 and Triglyceride Levels in Partially Migratory Canada Geese

By Audra Cote

Faculty Mentor: Andrew Dolby, Parrish Waters


The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a partial migrant species, which means that some individuals migrate between breeding and nonbreeding grounds, while others remain in one location throughout the year. Eastern Virginia contains both permanent residents and overwintering migrants which breed in Canada’s James Bay region. The metabolic demands of migration predict physiological differences between migrants and more sedentary residents, but they have been little studied in Canada Goose. Understanding such differences may help predict the resiliency of migratory birds to rapid climate change. We compared triglyceride and HSP90 (heat shock protein) in liver tissue extracted from resident and migrant goose carcasses donated by licensed hunters. HSP90 is an oxidative stress indicator, while triglycerides indicate differences in energetic status based on differences in activity and diet. Our prediction was that HSP90, and triglyceride levels would differ between resident and migrant Canada Goose populations, with high HSP90 associated with migratory and physiological stress and high triglyceride levels associated with a more sedentary activity level. Most of the resident geese were collected in September, and migrant geese were collected in January. Body length measurements were also used to assign individuals to migrant and resident categories. Neither triglyceride nor HSP90 levels significantly differed between residents and migrant geese. They also did not differ between sexes. However, HSP90 levels marginally differed by location in Virginia, perhaps relating to differences in land use and resources available to geese. We plan to increase HSP90 sample sizes and additionally measure HSP70 and enzymes associated with triglyceride metabolism.


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