Schmid, B., L. Tam-Dafond, S. Jenni-Eiermann, R. Arlettaz, M. Schaub & L. Jenni (2013)

Modulation of the adrenocortical response to acute stress with respect to brood value, reproductive success and survival in the Eurasian hoopoe.

Further information

Oecologia 173 (1): 33–44



Reproducing parents face the difficult challenge of trading-off investment in current reproduction against presumed future survival and reproduction. Glucocorticoids are supposed to mediate this trade-off because the adrenocortical response to stress disrupts normal reproductive behaviour in favour of self-maintenance and own survival. According to the brood-value hypothesis, individuals with a low survival probability until the next reproductive season have to invest in current reproduction, a process driven by a down-regulation of their adrenocortical response. If the adrenocortical response to stress effectively mediates the trade-off between current reproduction versus future survival and reproduction, we expect a negative relationship with reproductive success and a positive correlation of the adrenocortical stress response with survival. We studied the relationship between corticosterone secretion in parents and their current brood value, reproductive success and survival in a short-lived multi-brooded bird, the Eurasian hoopoe Upupa epops. The adrenocortical response to acute handling stress was correlated with the brood value within the individual (first and second broods of the year) and between individuals. Birds breeding late in the season mounted a lower total corticosterone response to acute stress than birds breeding earlier, while females showed lower levels than males. We observed a negative relationship between the adrenocortical stress response and rearing success or fledging success in females, as predicted by the brood-value hypothesis. However, we could not evidence a clear link between the adrenocortical stress response and survival. Future research testing the brood-value hypothesis and trade-offs between current reproduction and future survival should also measure free corticosterone and carefully differentiate between cross-sectional (i.e. between-individual) and individualbased experimental studies.
Keywords: Corticosterone, Life-history trade-off, Reproductive success, Survival, Upupa epops