Sudden weather deterioration but not brood size affects baseline corticosterone levels in nestling Alpine swifts

Pierre Bize*, Antoine Stocker, Susanne Jenni-Eiermann, Julien Gasparini, Alexandre Roulin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

While evidence is accumulating that stress-induced glucocorticoid responses help organisms to quickly adjust their physiology and behaviour to life-threatening environmental perturbations, the function and the ecological factors inducing variation in baseline glucocorticoid levels remain poorly understood. In this study we investigated the effects of brood size by experimentally manipulating the number of nestlings per brood and the effect of weather condition on baseline corticosterone levels of nestling Alpine swifts (Apus melba). We also examined the potential negative consequences of an elevation of baseline corticosterone on nestling immunity by correlating corticosterone levels with ectoparasite intensity and the antibody production towards a vaccine. Although nestlings reared in enlarged broods were in poorer condition than nestlings reared in reduced broods, they showed similar baseline corticosterone levels. In contrast, nestling baseline corticosterone levels were higher immediately after cold and rainy episodes with strong winds. Neither nestling infestation rate by ectoparastic flies nor nestling antibody production against a vaccine was correlated with baseline corticosterone levels. Thus, our results suggest that altricial Alpine swift nestlings can quickly modulate baseline corticosterone levels in response to unpredictable variations in meteorological perturbation but not to brood size which may be associated with the degree of sibling competition. Apparently, short-term elevations of baseline corticosterone have no negative effects on nestling immunocompetence. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-598
Number of pages8
JournalHormones and Behavior
Volume58
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010

Keywords

  • Baseline corticosterone
  • Brood size manipulation
  • Sibling competition
  • Unpredictable perturbations
  • Weather conditions
  • PHYSIOLOGICAL STRESS-RESPONSE
  • SWALLOWS HIRUNDO-RUSTICA
  • SIBLING COMPETITION
  • ADRENOCORTICAL-RESPONSE
  • APUS-MELBA
  • FOOD AVAILABILITY
  • IMMUNE-RESPONSE
  • BIRDS
  • WILD
  • GLUCOCORTICOIDS

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