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Glucose tolerance predicts survival in old zebra finches

Cite this dataset

Montoya, Bibiana; Briga, Michael; Jimeno, Blanca; Verhulst, Simon (2022). Glucose tolerance predicts survival in old zebra finches [Dataset]. Dryad.


This data set complies information on meassurements of glucose tolerance obtained from a sample of 122 zebra finches. We tested for a link between the capacity to regulate glucose levels and survival. We also investigated for the effects of ambient factors, age, sex, and manipulated developmental and adult conditions (i.e. natal brood size and foraging cost, in a full factorial design) on glucose tolerance. Glucose tolerance was quantified using the incremental ‘area under the curve’ (AUC), with lower values indicating higher tolerance: a lower depart from baseline levels and faster return to them, after exogenous administration of glucose. Glucose tolerance predicted survival probability in old birds, above the median age, with individuals with higher glucose tolerance showing better survival than individuals with low or intermediate glucose tolerance. In young birds there was no association between glucose tolerance and survival. Experimentally induced adverse developmental conditions did not affect glucose tolerance, but low ambient temperature at sampling and hard foraging conditions during adulthood induced a fast return to baseline levels (i.e. high glucose tolerance). These findings can be interpreted as an efficient return to baseline glucose levels when energy requirements are high, with glucose presumably being used for energy metabolism or storage. Glucose tolerance was independent of sex. Our main finding that old birds with higher glucose tolerance had better survival supports the hypothesis that the capacity to efficiently cope with a physiological challenge predicts lifespan, at least in old birds.


One hundred twenty-two adult zebra finches, 60 males and 62 females with an average age of 3.52 ± 0.18 years (range 0.97 - 8.64 years) were randomly selected from the birds in an ongoing long-term experiment (see below) at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands (53° 13' 0" N / 6° 33' 0" E).  Birds were bred indoors (see below), and after 120 days of age and through this study, were housed in single sex outdoor aviaries (L x H x W: 310 x 210 x 150 cm) with ad libitum access to tropical seed mixture, cuttlebone, water, and sand (but see experimental treatments). In addition, birds were supplemented three times per week, with 0.42 g (per bird) of a commercial nutritional supplement (Bogena, Hedel, the Netherlands).