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Data from: Corticosterone predicts foraging behavior and parental care in macaroni penguins

Cite this dataset

Crossin, Glenn T. et al. (2012). Data from: Corticosterone predicts foraging behavior and parental care in macaroni penguins [Dataset]. Dryad.


Corticosterone has received considerable attention as the principal hormonal mediator of allostasis or physiological stress in wild animals. More recently, it has also been implicated in the regulation of parental care in breeding birds, particularly with respect to individual variation in foraging behaviour and provisioning effort. There is also evidence that prolactin can work either inversely or additively with corticosterone to achieve this. Here we test the hypothesis that endogenous corticosterone plays a key physiological role in the control of foraging behaviour and parental care using a combination of exogenous corticosterone treatment, time-depth telemetry, and physiological sampling of female macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) during the brood-guard period of chick rearing, while simultaneously monitoring patterns of prolactin secretion. Plasma corticosterone levels were significantly higher in females given exogenous implants relative to those receiving sham implants. Increased corticosterone levels were associated with significantly higher levels of foraging and diving activity, and greater mass gain in implanted females. Elevated plasma corticosterone was also associated with an apparent fitness benefit in the form of increased chick mass. Plasma prolactin levels did not correlate with corticosterone levels at any time, nor was prolactin correlated with any measure of foraging behaviour or parental care. Our results provide support for the corticosterone-adaptation hypothesis, which predicts that higher corticosterone levels support increased foraging activity and parental effort.

Usage notes


Bird Island
South Georgia