Using the van Noordwijk and de Jong Resource Framework to Evaluate Glucocorticoid-Fitness Hypotheses

Creagh W. Breuner, Sara A. Berk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Ten years ago, two reviews clarified the need to tie glucocorticoid (GC) levels directly to survival and reproductive measures. Three primary hypotheses emerged from that work: the CORT-Fitness hypothesis, the CORT-Adaptation hypothesis, and the CORT-Tradeoff hypothesis. The two reviews have since been cited nearly 900 times, but no clear consensus has emerged supporting one hypothesis over another. We propose that resource availability may be a major confound across studies. Life-history investment is determined by both allocation and acquisition, but current literature testing among the three GC-fitness hypotheses rarely incorporate metrics of resource availability. In 1986, van Noordwijk and de Jong (vN and dJ) proposed the acquisition/allocation Y-model to explain positive versus negative correlations between reproduction and survival across individuals. Their model elevated resources as critical to evaluating individual allocation strategies (favoring reproduction vs. survival), and therefore provides the ideal framework for testing across the three CORT hypotheses. Here, we review the three hypotheses in light of the last 10 years of data, introduce the vN and dJ framework as a model for fitness/GC hypothesis testing, and discuss best practices for using this framework. We believe incorporation of resource availability will reduce unexplained variability in GC-fitness tests, clarify support among the three hypotheses, and allow for greater power in testing across other context dependencies (e.g., life-history strategy) that likely regulate differential allocation to reproduction versus survival as GCs increase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-250
Number of pages8
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


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