Physiological links with behavior and fitness: The acute adrenocortical response predicts trappability but not survival in male and female deermice

Andreas Eleftheriou, Sara H. Williams, Angela D. Luis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The “Cort-Fitness” hypothesis predicts a negative relationship between baseline glucocorticoids (GCs) and fitness, although evidence for this hypothesis remains mixed. Such ambiguity could partially exist because blood GCs, typically used in field studies, can fluctuate too rapidly to measure accurately, while the relationship between GCs and trappability is often neglected. Here, by addressing these factors, we examined relationships between GC measures and survival of North American deermice (Peromyscus maniculatus; hereafter deermice) as a model system. To do this, we used more stable GC measures, including the integrated measures of baseline and stress response fecal corticosterone metabolites (FCMs), and downstream measures of neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio (N/L ratio), and body condition score (BCS), to characterize their relationships with survival and trappability. Over two years, deermice were live-trapped monthly, evaluated for BCS, and sampled for feces and blood. Stress response FCMs were evaluated only at first capture. Mark-recapture models, with GC measures as predictors of either survival or trappability, were compared to identify top models. We found that stress response FCMs negatively predicted trappability, and weaker evidence that BCS positively predicted survival. Although the latter provides some support for the “Cort-Fitness” hypothesis, there was no support when using integrated measures. Instead, our findings suggest that deermice with a lower adrenocortical response (i.e. stress response FCMs) were more likely to be captured. Therefore, GC-trappability relationships must be investigated in field studies to avoid linking the wrong GC profile to fitness, and physiological measures other than blood GCs may be useful for detecting GC-fitness patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105183
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Body condition
  • Capture behavior
  • Detection probability
  • Fecal glucocorticoid metabolites
  • Live-traps
  • Physiological stress
  • Robust design models


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