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Cortisol levels are positively associated with pup-feeding rates in male meerkats

Carlson, A.A., Manser, M.B., Young, A.J., Russell, A.F., Jordan, N.R., McNeilly, A.S. and Clutton-Brock, T. (2006) Cortisol levels are positively associated with pup-feeding rates in male meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273 (1586). pp. 571-577. ISSN 1471-2954


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In societies of cooperative vertebrates, individual differences in contributions to offspring care are commonly substantial. Recent attempts to explain the causes of this variation have focused on correlations between contributions to care and the protein hormone prolactin, or the steroid hormone testosterone. However, such studies have seldom considered the importance of other hormones or controlled for non-hormonal factors that are correlative with both individual hormone levels and contributions to care. Using multivariate statistics, we show that hormone levels explain significant variation in contributions to pup-feeding by male meerkats, even after controlling for non-hormonal effects. However, long-term contributions to pup provisioning were significantly and positively correlated with plasma levels of cortisol rather than prolactin, while plasma levels of testosterone were not related to individual patterns of pup-feeding. Furthermore, a playback experiment that used pup begging calls to increase the feeding rates of male helpers gave rise to parallel increases in plasma cortisol levels, whilst prolactin and testosterone levels remained unchanged. Our findings confirm that hormones can explain significant amounts of variation in contributions to offspring feeding, and that cortisol, not prolactin, is the hormone most strongly associated with pup-feeding in cooperative male meerkats.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: Copyright © 2006 The Royal Society. Reproduced in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: helper, cooperative, provisioning, prolactin, cortisol, testosterone
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > School of Biological Sciences (Sheffield) > Department of Animal and Plant Sciences (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2006
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2014 15:12
Published Version: http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/openurl.asp?gen...
Status: Published
Publisher: The Royal Society
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1098/rspb.2005.3087
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1385

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