Metabolic Rates Predict Baseline Corticosterone and Reproductive Output in a Free-Living Passerine

Blanca Jimeno, Mackenzie R. Prichard, Devin Landry, Cole Wolf, Beau Larkin, Zachary Cheviron, Creagh Breuner

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6 Scopus citations


Organisms continuously face environmental fluctuations, and allocation of metabolic investment to meet changing energetic demands is fundamental to survival and reproductive success. Glucocorticoid (GC) hormones (e.g., corticosterone [CORT]) play an important role in energy acquisition and allocation in the face of environmental challenges, partly through mediation of energy metabolism. Although GCs and metabolic rate are expected to covary, surprisingly few empirical studies have demonstrated such relationships, especially in wild animals. Moreover, studies testing for associations between GCs and fitness generally do not account for amongindividual differences in energy expenditure or energy allocation. We measured CORT (baseline and stressinduced) and metabolic traits (resting metabolic rate [RMR], cold-induced VO2max [Msum], and aerobic scope [the difference between Msum and RMR]) in female tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) during chick-rearing, and tested for their associations with several variables of reproductive performance. We found a positive relationship between RMR and baseline CORT, but no consistent associations between stress-induced CORT (SI-CORT) and Msum. This suggests that while baseline CORT may be a good indicator of an individual s baseline metabolic investment, SI-CORT responses are not associated with aerobic scope or the upper limits of aerobic performance. Furthermore, we found that metabolic traits were associated with reproductive performance: females with higher reproductive output showed higher Msum, and also tended to show higher RMR. Overall, these results suggest that metabolic traits are better predictors of reproductive output in tree swallows than CORT concentrations. They further point to the maximal aerobic capacity being higher in females investing more heavily in a current reproductive event, but whether this association reflects trade-offs between current and future reproductive efforts remains to be tested.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberobaa030
JournalIntegrative Organismal Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


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