State dependent effects of elevated hormone: Nest site quality, corticosterone levels and reproductive performance in the common eider

D’Alba, L., Spencer, K.A., Nager, R.G. and Monaghan, P. (2011) State dependent effects of elevated hormone: Nest site quality, corticosterone levels and reproductive performance in the common eider. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 172(2), pp. 218-224. (doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2011.03.006)

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Nest shelter in incubating birds is of major importance in providing protection against unfavourable conditions such as harshness of the environment and exposure to predators. We examined the link between nest shelter, baseline corticosterone (CORT) levels and hatching success in common eiders (Somateria mollissima) incubating at nest sites with different levels of shelter. Since more sheltered nest sites could be occupied by better-quality females, we also used an experimental manipulation of nest shelter to separate the effects of the physical attributes of the nest site from those of individual quality. We compared birds with naturally sheltered nests, exposed nests and exposed nests provided with artificial nest shelters and measured clutch size, body condition, CORT levels at the end of incubation and hatching success. If nest shelter reduces CORT levels, we predicted that CORT levels would be highest at the least sheltered sites, and that the provision of artificial shelter would reduce CORT levels. We found that nest shelter was not related to CORT levels in incubating eiders. Nest shelter, however, affected body condition, with females at exposed sites losing more body mass during incubation than females at naturally and artificially sheltered nests. Interestingly however, in those birds nesting at the exposed sites, with and without artificial shelter, those with the highest CORT levels had the lowest hatching success. This relationship was not evident in females nesting at naturally sheltered sites. These results suggest that the level of nest shelter does not directly affect CORT levels in females. Instead, we suggest that the relationship between CORT levels and hatching success is state-dependent. Exposed sites are occupied by individuals that laid smaller clutches, and hence are likely to be of lower quality, and the negative effects of elevated CORT on hatching success are more pronounced in these females

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Monaghan, Professor Pat and Spencer, Dr Karen and Nager, Dr Ruedi
Authors: D’Alba, L., Spencer, K.A., Nager, R.G., and Monaghan, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:General and Comparative Endocrinology
Publisher:Elsevier BV

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