Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

The influence of stress hormones and aggression on cooperative behaviour in subordinate meerkats


Tim Clutton-Brock, Tim; Braga Goncalves, Ines; Spence-Jones, Helen C; Bennett, Nigel C; Heistermann, Michael; Ganswindt, Andre; Dubuc, Constance; Gaynor, David; Manser, Marta B; Clutton-Brock, Tim (2017). The influence of stress hormones and aggression on cooperative behaviour in subordinate meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, (284):1863.

Abstract

In cooperative breeders, aggression from dominant breeders directed at subordinates may raise subordinate stress hormone (glucocorticoid) concentrations. This may benefit dominants by suppressing subordinate reproduction but it is uncertain whether aggression from dominants can elevate subordinate cooperative behaviour, or how resulting changes in subordinate glucocorticoid concentrations affect their cooperative behaviour. We show here that the effects of manipulating glucocorticoid concentrations in wild meerkats (Suricata suricatta) on cooperative behaviour varied between cooperative activities as well as between the sexes. Subordinates of both sexes treated with a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist (mifepristone) exhibited significantly more pup protection behaviour (babysitting) compared to those treated with glucocorticoids (cortisol) or controls. Females treated with mifepristone had a higher probability of exhibiting pup food provisioning (pup-feeding) compared to those treated with cortisol. In males, there were no treatment effects on the probability of pup-feeding, but those treated with cortisol gave a higher proportion of the food they found to pups than those treated with mifepristone. Using 19 years of behavioural data, we also show that dominant females did not increase the frequency with which they directed aggression at subordinates at times when the need for assistance was highest. Our results suggest that it is unlikely that dominant females manipulate the cooperative behaviour of subordinates through the effects of aggression on their glucocorticoid levels and that the function of aggression directed at subordinates is probably to reduce the probability they will breed.

Abstract

In cooperative breeders, aggression from dominant breeders directed at subordinates may raise subordinate stress hormone (glucocorticoid) concentrations. This may benefit dominants by suppressing subordinate reproduction but it is uncertain whether aggression from dominants can elevate subordinate cooperative behaviour, or how resulting changes in subordinate glucocorticoid concentrations affect their cooperative behaviour. We show here that the effects of manipulating glucocorticoid concentrations in wild meerkats (Suricata suricatta) on cooperative behaviour varied between cooperative activities as well as between the sexes. Subordinates of both sexes treated with a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist (mifepristone) exhibited significantly more pup protection behaviour (babysitting) compared to those treated with glucocorticoids (cortisol) or controls. Females treated with mifepristone had a higher probability of exhibiting pup food provisioning (pup-feeding) compared to those treated with cortisol. In males, there were no treatment effects on the probability of pup-feeding, but those treated with cortisol gave a higher proportion of the food they found to pups than those treated with mifepristone. Using 19 years of behavioural data, we also show that dominant females did not increase the frequency with which they directed aggression at subordinates at times when the need for assistance was highest. Our results suggest that it is unlikely that dominant females manipulate the cooperative behaviour of subordinates through the effects of aggression on their glucocorticoid levels and that the function of aggression directed at subordinates is probably to reduce the probability they will breed.

Statistics

Citations

Altmetrics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:27 September 2017
Deposited On:19 Jan 2018 08:14
Last Modified:18 Apr 2018 11:49
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:0962-8452
Funders:NERC RG53472, ERC 294494, SNF 31003A_13676, Cambridge University, UZH
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.1248
Project Information:
  • : Funder
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleNERC RG53472
  • : Funder
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleERC 294494
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleSNF 31003A_13676
  • : Funder
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleCambridge University
  • : Funder
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleUZH

Download

Full text not available from this repository.
View at publisher