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Cortisol levels are positively associated with pup-feeding rates in male meerkats.


Carlson, A A; Manser, M B; Young, A J; Russell, A F; Jordan, N R; McNeilly, A S; Clutton-Brock, T (2006). Cortisol levels are positively associated with pup-feeding rates in male meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273(1586):571-577.

Abstract

In societies of cooperative vertebrates, individual differences in contributions to offspring care are commonly substantial. Recent attempts to explain the causes of this variation have focused on correlations between contributions to care and the protein hormone prolactin, or the steroid hormone testosterone. However, such studies have seldom considered the importance of other hormones or controlled for non-hormonal factors that are correlative with both individual hormone levels and contributions to care. Using multivariate statistics, we show that hormone levels explain significant variation in contributions to pup-feeding by male meerkats, even after controlling for non-hormonal effects. However, long-term contributions to pup provisioning were significantly and positively correlated with plasma levels of cortisol rather than prolactin, while plasma levels of testosterone were not related to individual patterns of pup-feeding. Furthermore, a playback experiment that used pup begging calls to increase the feeding rates of male helpers gave rise to parallel increases in plasma cortisol levels, whilst prolactin and testosterone levels remained unchanged. Our findings confirm that hormones can explain significant amounts of variation in contributions to offspring feeding, and that cortisol, not prolactin, is the hormone most strongly associated with pup-feeding in cooperative male meerkats.

Abstract

In societies of cooperative vertebrates, individual differences in contributions to offspring care are commonly substantial. Recent attempts to explain the causes of this variation have focused on correlations between contributions to care and the protein hormone prolactin, or the steroid hormone testosterone. However, such studies have seldom considered the importance of other hormones or controlled for non-hormonal factors that are correlative with both individual hormone levels and contributions to care. Using multivariate statistics, we show that hormone levels explain significant variation in contributions to pup-feeding by male meerkats, even after controlling for non-hormonal effects. However, long-term contributions to pup provisioning were significantly and positively correlated with plasma levels of cortisol rather than prolactin, while plasma levels of testosterone were not related to individual patterns of pup-feeding. Furthermore, a playback experiment that used pup begging calls to increase the feeding rates of male helpers gave rise to parallel increases in plasma cortisol levels, whilst prolactin and testosterone levels remained unchanged. Our findings confirm that hormones can explain significant amounts of variation in contributions to offspring feeding, and that cortisol, not prolactin, is the hormone most strongly associated with pup-feeding in cooperative male meerkats.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed
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:2006
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:15
Last Modified:06 Dec 2017 12:49
Publisher:Royal Society of London
ISSN:0962-8452
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2005.3087
PubMed ID:16537128

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