Data from: Within-individual plasticity explains age-related decrease in stress response in a short-lived bird
Lendvai, Ádám Z. et al. (2015), Data from: Within-individual plasticity explains age-related decrease in stress response in a short-lived bird, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.rg0s0
A crucial problem for every organism is how to allocate energy between competing life-history components. The optimal allocation decision is often state-dependent and mediated by hormones. Here, we investigated how age, a major state variable affects individuals' hormonal response to a standardized stressor: a trait that may reflect allocation between self-maintenance and reproduction. We caught free-living house sparrows and measured their hormonal (corticosterone) response to capture stress in consecutive years. Using a long-term ringing dataset, we determined the age of the birds, and we partitioned the variation into within- and among-individual age components to investigate the effects of plasticity versus selection or gene flow, respectively, on the stress response. We found large among-individual variation in the birds' hormone profiles, but overall, birds responded less strongly to capture stress as they grew older. These results suggest that stress responsiveness is a plastic trait that may vary within individuals in an adaptive manner, and natural selection may act on the reaction norms producing optimal phenotypic response in the actual environment and life-history stage.