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Effects of cortisol administration on cooperative behavior in meerkat helpers


Santema, P; Teitel, Z; Manser, M; Bennett, N; Clutton-Brock, T (2013). Effects of cortisol administration on cooperative behavior in meerkat helpers. Behavioral Ecology, 24(5):1122-1127.

Abstract

Although the ultimate causes for variation in contributions to helping in cooperative breeders are increasingly well understood, the underlying physiological mechanisms remain largely unknown. Recent work has suggested that glucocorticoids may play an important role in the expression of cooperative behavior. Here, we present the first experimental test of the effects of glucocor- ticoids on helper behavior in a cooperative breeder. Glucocorticoid levels of adult female and male meerkat, Suricata suricatta, helpers were elevated with an intramuscular injection of cortisol (hydrocortisone 21-hemisuccinate sodium salt) dissolved in saline, whereas matched controls simultaneously received an injection of physiological saline. The treatment successfully ele- vated circulating glucocorticoid levels but did not result in significant changes in pup feeding or sentinel behavior. Females, how- ever, spent less time foraging when glucocorticoid levels were elevated and appeared to spend more time in close proximity to pups. These results provide no evidence that glucocorticoids affect cooperative behaviors but suggest that there may be an effect on foraging effort and affiliation with pups.

Abstract

Although the ultimate causes for variation in contributions to helping in cooperative breeders are increasingly well understood, the underlying physiological mechanisms remain largely unknown. Recent work has suggested that glucocorticoids may play an important role in the expression of cooperative behavior. Here, we present the first experimental test of the effects of glucocor- ticoids on helper behavior in a cooperative breeder. Glucocorticoid levels of adult female and male meerkat, Suricata suricatta, helpers were elevated with an intramuscular injection of cortisol (hydrocortisone 21-hemisuccinate sodium salt) dissolved in saline, whereas matched controls simultaneously received an injection of physiological saline. The treatment successfully ele- vated circulating glucocorticoid levels but did not result in significant changes in pup feeding or sentinel behavior. Females, how- ever, spent less time foraging when glucocorticoid levels were elevated and appeared to spend more time in close proximity to pups. These results provide no evidence that glucocorticoids affect cooperative behaviors but suggest that there may be an effect on foraging effort and affiliation with pups.

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Contributors:Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Institute for Evolutionary Biology & Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria
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:2013
Deposited On:04 Dec 2013 15:37
Last Modified:29 Aug 2018 16:28
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1045-2249
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/art039

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