Hormone levels predict individual differences in reproductive success in a passerine bird

Ouyang, Jenny Q.; Sharp, Peter J.; Dawson, Alistair; Quetting, Michael; Hau, Michaela. 2011 Hormone levels predict individual differences in reproductive success in a passerine bird. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, 278 (1717). 2537-2545.

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Hormones mediate major physiological and behavioural components of the reproductive phenotype of individuals. To understand basic evolutionary processes in the hormonal regulation of reproductive traits, we need to know whether, and during which reproductive phases, individual variation in hormone concentrations relates to fitness in natural populations. We related circulating concentrations of prolactin and corticosterone to parental behaviour and reproductive success during both the pre-breeding and the chick-rearing stages in both individuals of pairs of free-living house sparrows, Passer domesticus. Prolactin and baseline corticosterone concentrations in pre-breeding females, and prolactin concentrations in pre-breeding males, predicted total number of fledglings. When the strong effect of lay date on total fledgling number was corrected for, only pre-breeding baseline corticosterone, but not prolactin, was negatively correlated with the reproductive success of females. During the breeding season, nestling provisioning rates of both sexes were negatively correlated with stress-induced corticosterone levels. Lastly, individuals of both sexes with low baseline corticosterone before and high baseline corticosterone during breeding raised the most offspring, suggesting that either the plasticity of this trait contributes to reproductive success or that high parental effort leads to increased hormone concentrations. Thus hormone concentrations both before and during breeding, as well as their seasonal dynamics, predict reproductive success, suggesting that individual variation in absolute concentrations and in plasticity is functionally significant, and, if heritable, may be a target of selection.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 2 - Ecological Processes in the Environment > BD - 2.4 - Estimate the impact of the main drivers and pressures on biodiversity ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Watt
ISSN: 0962-8452
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: For the publishers definitive version, please go to
Additional Keywords: stress, corticosterone, prolactin, Passer domesticus, parental investment
NORA Subject Terms: Zoology
Date made live: 20 Sep 2011 09:53 +0 (UTC)

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