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      Exogenous corticosterone and nest abandonment: a study in a long-lived bird, the Adélie penguin.

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          Abstract

          Breeding individuals enter an emergency life-history stage when their body reserves reach a minimum threshold. Consequently, they redirect current activity toward survival, leading to egg abandonment in birds. Corticosterone (CORT) is known to promote this stage. How and to what extent CORT triggers egg abandonment when breeding is associated with prolonged fasting, however, requires further investigation. We manipulated free-living male Adélie penguins with CORT-pellets before their laying period. We then examined their behavioral response with respect to nest abandonment in parallel with their prolactin levels (regulating parental care), and the subsequent effects of treatment on breeding success in relieved birds. Exogenous CORT triggered nest abandonment in 60% of the treated penguins ~14 days after treatment and induced a concomitant decline in prolactin levels. Interestingly, prolactin levels in treated penguins that did not abandon their nest were higher at the point of implantation and also after being relieved by females, when compared with abandoning penguins. Among successful birds, the treatment did not affect the number of chicks, nor the brood mass. Our results show the involvement of CORT in the decision-making process regarding egg abandonment in Adélie penguins when incubation is associated with a natural long fast. However, we suggest that CORT alone is not sufficient to trigger nest abandonment but that 1) prolactin levels need to reach a low threshold value, and 2) a rise in proteolysis (i.e. utilization of protein as main energy substrate) seems also to be required.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Horm Behav
          Hormones and behavior
          1095-6867
          0018-506X
          Sep 2011
          : 60
          : 4
          Affiliations
          [1 ] Université de Strasbourg, IPHC-DEPE, 23 rue Becquerel, 67087, Strasbourg, France. marion.spee@c-strasbourg.fr
          Article
          S0018-506X(11)00154-1
          10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.07.003
          21763694
          5272f1fa-eda7-4719-9d78-2f3a081e5ef0
          Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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