MEPS 496:125-133 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10603

Theme Section: Tracking fitness in marine vertebrates

Corticosterone mediates carry-over effects between breeding and migration in the kittiwake Rissa tridactyla

Jannik Schultner1,4,*, Børge Moe2, Olivier Chastel3, Sabrina Tartu3, Claus Bech1, Alexander S. Kitaysky4

1Department of Biology, Natural Sciences Building, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7491 Trondheim, Norway
2Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Box 5685 Sluppen, 7485 Trondheim, Norway
3Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, CNRS, 79360 Villiers en Bois, France
4Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 311 Irving I, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Carry-over effects, i.e. when processes in one season influence processes in the next, are believed to have important effects on behavior and fitness in animals. Despite an increasing interest in the identification of carry-over effects, there are few experimental studies of the underlying mechanisms. We investigated how a short-term experimental elevation of the stress hormone corticosterone (CORT) during breeding influences the migratory behavior of black-legged kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla. We exposed chick-rearing kittiwakes to a 3 d elevation of CORT, which is usually secreted in response to food shortages. The migratory behavior of CORT-treated kittiwakes and a control group was then tracked using geolocators. We found that CORT treatment affected subsequent autumn migration in a sex-specific manner. CORT-treated females left the breeding grounds earlier and spent a longer period at the wintering grounds than control birds and CORT-treated males. The CORT treatment did not affect the timing of spring arrival or total length of migration. Our findings indicated that physiological stress incurred during breeding can carry over to affect key parameters of migratory behavior in autumn. Identifying carry-over mechanisms, such as those described here, is important to understand how performance and fitness in animals are determined by interactions between different parts of their life cycle.


KEY WORDS: Glucocorticoids · Mechanism · Carry-over effects · Reproduction · Autumn migration · Black-legged kittiwake · Rissa tridactyla


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Cite this article as: Schultner J, Moe B, Chastel O, Tartu S, Bech C, Kitaysky AS (2014) Corticosterone mediates carry-over effects between breeding and migration in the kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 496:125-133. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10603

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