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Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 79, 3 (2006) 1522-2152
Body Mass and Clutch Size May Modulate Prolactin and Corticosterone Levels in Eiders
Francois Criscuolo1, Fabrice Bertile2, Joël M. Durant2, Thierry Raclot2, Geir Wing Gabrielsen3, Sylvie Massemin2, Olivier Chastel4

Altered body condition, increased incubation costs, and egg loss are important proximate factors modulating bird parental behavior, since they inform the adult about its remaining chances of survival or about the expected current reproductive success. Hormonal changes should reflect internal or external stimuli, since corticosterone levels (inducing nest abandonment) are known to increase while body condition deteriorates, and prolactin levels (stimulating incubation) decrease following egg predation. However, in a capital incubator that based its investment on available body reserves and naturally lost about half of its body mass during incubation, corticosterone should be maintained at a low threshold to avoid protein mobilization for energy supply. This study focused on the regulation of corticosterone and prolactin release in such birds during incubation, when facing egg manipulation (control, reduced, or increased) or a stressful event. Blood samples were taken before and after clutch manipulation and at hatching. Corticosterone levels were determined before and after 30 min of captivity. Female eiders exhibited a high hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal sensitivity, plasma concentration of corticosterone being increased by four- to fivefold following 30 min of captivity. The adrenocortical response was not modified by body mass loss but was higher in birds for which clutch size was increased. In the same way, females did not show different prolactin levels among the experimental groups. However, when incubation started, prolactin levels were correlated to body mass, suggesting that nest attendance is programmed in relation to the female initial body condition. Moreover, due to an artifactual impact of bird manipulation, increased baseline corticosterone was associated with a prolactin decrease in the control group. These data suggest that, in eiders, body mass and clutch size modification can modulate prolactin and corticosterone levels, which cross-regulate each other in order to finely control incubation behavior.
1 :  CEPE - Centre d'écologie et physiologie énergétiques
2 :  DEPE-IPHC - Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie
3 :  NPRI - Norvegian Polar Research Institute
4 :  CEBC - Centre d'études biologiques de Chizé
Sciences de l'environnement/Biodiversité et Ecologie

Sciences de l'environnement/Environnement et Société