My fascination in science stems from my passion for wildlife and nature in general. My curiosity about life is what drives me to explore new areas of research and to work on new species and in new environments. In this website I will keep you informed on my work.
‘‘Nothing will destroy the science and mission of conservation biology faster than a generation or two of biologists raised on dead facts and technology and lacking direct, personal experience with Nature’’ (Noss R., 1996, The naturalists are dying off. Cons. Biol., 10: 1–3)
This book illustrates how and why oxidative stress and hormesis have contributed to shape biological diversity, from organism life-histories and behavioural profiles to morphological phenotypes and ageing mechanisms. The book offers fascinating insights into how organisms work and how they evolve to sustain their physiological functions under a vast array of environmental conditions.
Chapter 1: Historical and Contemporary Issues of Oxidative Stress, Hormesis and Life History Evolution; Chapter 2: Early Life Hormesis and Oxidative Experiences Fine-Tune the Adult Phenotype; Chapter 3: Variation in Oxidative Stress Threats and Hormesis Across Environments; Chapter 4: Nutritional Ecology, Foraging Strategies and Food Selection; Chapter 5: Coping with Physical Activity and Inactivity; Chapter 6: The Costs of Makeup in Sexual Selection and Social Signalling; Chapter 7: The Role of Oxidative Stress and Hormesis in Shaping Reproductive Strategies from Mating Systems to Parental Care; Chapter 8: Combating Parasites: Immune Response and Inflammation; Chapter 9: Variation Within and Among Species in Resistance to Oxidative Stress and Hormetic Responses; Chapter 10: Integrating Oxidative Stress and Hormesis into Research on Senescence and Survival Perspectives
Physiological measurement tools have strong potential to uncover unnoticed costs that might negatively affect fitness in the long-term, particularly in threatened species such as the cheetah and the leopard. The use of oxidative status markers in combination with other physiological markers might enhance the success of conservation and management programs of endangered carnivores. These two recent articles on cheetahs Acinonyx jubatus and leopards Panthera pardus (Costantini et al., 2017; Costantini et al., 2019) enabled to identify some potential socioecological and environmental factors that explain variation of oxidative stress markers in these two threatened feline species
Fantastic to see that my photo “Breeding” showing a pair of Arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea) has been runner-up in the category “Behaviour” of the Royal Society Publishing Photography competition 2017 and has been highly commended at BMC ecology image competition 2017.
Work on ‘honest signalling’ has been a major area of research in animal behaviour and evolutionary ecology in recent decades. Honest signals accurately reflect individual quality, which depends on various interacting factors, such as foraging capability and also functionality of the hormonal and immune systems. In recent times, it has been suggested that dysfunctional regulation of the oxidative balance (resulting in oxidative stress) might be a significant handicap for the expression of sexual signals in low quality individuals. The term ‘oxidative stress’ describes a state where oxidative damage to body tissues increases because oxidising molecules, which are mostly a by-product of metabolism, exceed the body’s level of antioxidant defences, and thus are free to react with molecules like lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. This study examined experimentally for the first time whether a state of oxidative stress influences song behaviour in male starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Males were injected with a substance that reduces specifically the synthesis of a key cellular antioxidant called glutathione. Treated subordinate males suffered increased oxidative damage, while treated dominant males did not. Treated subordinate males also reduced their song rate. On the other hand, treated dominant males did not suffer any reduction in song rate. This study therefore provides experimental support for the hypothesis that acoustic signals may honestly convey information about the individual’s oxidative status and capacity to regulate its oxidative balance, raising the possibility of hitherto unexplored impacts of oxidative stress on fitness traits in social species.
I am currently doing fieldwork in North Pole together with French colleagues. The project will be looking at the effects of contaminants on the black-legged kittiwakes. Greetings from the French-German Arctic Research Base AWIPEV in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard.
The Western Tarsier (Cephalopachus bancanus borneanus) is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List and the population trend is considered to be decreasing. I have started a project in collaboration with the Danau Girang Field Centre (Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia) aimed to elucidating which factors are responsible for such a decline and to developing an effective conservation strategy. The biology and ecology of this little creature are also poorly known. So it will also be a great opportunity to know more about this unique species.
Congratulations to Shona on getting her first Ph.D. article accepted for publication in the journal Ecology and Evolution. The article reports a meta-analysis of the role of oxidative stress as a cost of and constraint on growth in both invertebrates and vertebrates.
The term ‘oxidative stress’ describes a state where oxidative damage to body tissues increases because oxidising molecules, which are mostly a by-product of metabolism, exceed the body’s level of antioxidant defences, and thus are free to react with molecules like lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. Such body deterioration may also in turn influence future investment in reproduction if it results in reduced fertility or changes in hormonal status. The recent article “Experimental evidence that oxidative stress influences reproductive decisions” published in Functional Ecology examined experimentally for the first time whether a state of oxidative stress influences reproductive decisions (when and how many eggs to lay) and reproductive success (hatching and fledging success, number of hatchlings and fledglings produced) in females of a songbird (canary, Serinus canaria). Those females whose oxidative stress level was increased delayed the start of egg laying and laid significantly smaller clutches than those females whose oxidative stress level was not increased. However, reproductive success was similar between control and stressed females. This study provides a rare insight into the cellular mechanisms that constrain reproductive decisions under female control in a vertebrate.