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Repeatability of behavior and physiology: no impact of reproductive investment

journal contribution
posted on 01.05.2020, 00:00 authored by Vincent Careau, Mylene MarietteMylene Mariette, Andrea Crino, William A Buttemer, Kate BuchananKate Buchanan
Animals have well-documented individual differences in their behaviour, including in their response to stressful stimuli. The physiological bases for the repeatability of these traits has been the focus of much research in recent years, in an attempt to explain the mechanistic drivers for behavioral syndromes. Whilst a range of studies have demonstrated repeatable individual differences in physiological traits, little is known about potential trade-offs between reproductive investment and the physiological response to subsequent stressors. We therefore sought to test the behavioral and physiological responses of male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) to a novel environment, quantifying a series of repeated “temporal reaction norms” before and after reproduction. Given that reproductive investment is costly both in time and energy, it is likely to affect expression of behavioral and physiological traits. We hypothesised that reproductive investment would impact the consistency of these temporal reaction norms. Specifically, we predicted that individuals which invested more in reproduction would show altered rates of habituation to a stressful stimulus. Therefore, we quantified temporal reaction norm components (i.e., intercept and slope) of two behaviours and metabolic rate (MR) within and among individuals before and after a breeding season. We found that individuals consistently differed in how their locomotor and feeding activity increased upon introduction into a novel environment and also how their MR decreased after being handled and confined within the metabolic chamber. We also found that the slope of the feeding activity reaction norm was negatively correlated with stress-induced corticosterone levels at the within-individual level. Finally, in contrast to our prediction, we found that neither the intercept or slope of the reaction norms were influenced by the reproductive effort (the number of fledglings produced) displayed by individual males. This suggests that the substantial individual variation in the expression of physiological and behavioural traits is not plastic with respect to the immediate consequences of reproductive investment. This study is the first quantification of metabolic rate reaction norms and their relationships with fitness, which represents an important first step towards understanding the evolutionary significance of instantaneous habituation to stressful and novel situations.



General and comparative endocrinology



Article number



1 - 11




Amsterdam, The Netherlands





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal