Sex-specific effects of the in ovo environment on early-life phenotypes in eiders

Markus Öst, K Noreikiene, F Angelier, K Jaatinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Maternal effects affect offspring phenotype and fitness. However, the roles of offspring sex-specific sensitivity to maternal glucocorticoids and sex-biased maternal investment remain unclear. It is also uncertain whether telomere length (a marker associated with lifespan) depends on early growth in a sex-specific manner. We assessed whether maternal traits including corticosterone (CORT; the main avian glucocorticoid) and in ovo growth rate are sex-specifically related to offspring CORT exposure, relative telomere length (RTL) and body condition in eiders (Somateria mollissima). We measured feather CORT (fCORT), RTL and body condition of newly hatched ducklings, and growth rate in ovo was expressed as tarsus length at hatching per incubation duration. Maternal traits included baseline plasma CORT, RTL, body condition and breeding experience. We found that fCORT was negatively associated with growth rate in daughters, while it showed a positive association in sons. Lower offspring fCORT was associated with higher maternal baseline plasma CORT, and fCORT was higher in larger clutches and in those hatching later. The RTL of daughters was negatively associated with maternal RTL, whereas that of males was nearly independent of maternal RTL. Higher fCORT in ovo was associated with longer RTL at hatching in both sexes. Duckling body condition was mainly explained by egg weight, and sons had a slightly lower body condition. Our correlational results suggest that maternal effects may have heterogeneous and even diametrically opposed effects between the sexes during early development. Our findings also challenge the view that prenatal CORT exposure is invariably associated with shorter telomeres.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)
Number of pages12
JournalOecologia
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Early environment
  • Feather corticosterone
  • Prenatal growth
  • Telomere length
  • Somateria mollissima

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