Glucocorticoids, state-dependent reproductive investment and success in the face of danger in a long-lived bird

Kristina Noreikienė, Kim Jaatinen, Benjamin B. Steele, Markus Öst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Glucocorticoid hormones may mediate trade-offs between current and future reproduction. However, understanding their role is complicated by predation risk, which simultaneously affects the value of the current reproductive investment and elevates glucocorticoid levels. Here, we shed light on these issues in long-lived female Eiders (Somateria mollissima) by investigating how current reproductive investment (clutch size) and hatching success relate to faecal glucocorticoid metabolite [fGCM] level and residual reproductive value (minimum years of breeding experience, body condition, relative telomere length) under spatially variable predation risk. Our results showed a positive relationship between colony-specific predation risk and mean colony-specific fGCM levels. Clutch size and female fGCM were negatively correlated only under high nest predation and in females in good body condition, previously shown to have a longer life expectancy. We also found that younger females with longer telomeres had smaller clutches. The drop in hatching success with increasing fGCM levels was least pronounced under high nest predation risk, suggesting that elevated fGCM levels may allow females to ensure some reproductive success under such conditions. Hatching success was positively associated with female body condition, with relative telomere length, particularly in younger females, and with female minimum age, particularly under low predation risk, showing the utility of these metrics as indicators of individual quality. In line with a trade-off between current and future reproduction, our results show that high potential for future breeding prospects and increased predation risk shift the balance toward investment in future reproduction, with glucocorticoids playing a role in the resolution of this trade-off.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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