Are fecal hormone levels linked to winter progression, diet quality, and social rank in young ungulates? An experiment with white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawns

Authors: Taillon, JoëlleCôté, Steeve D.
Abstract: Hormones play a central role in the physiology and behaviour of animals. The recent development of noninvasive techniques has increased information on physical and social states of individuals through hormone measurements. The relationships among hormones, life history traits and behaviours are, however, still poorly known. For the first time, we evaluated natural winter glucocorticoid and testosterone levels in young ungulates in relation to winter progression, diet quality and social rank. Overwinter, levels of glucocorticoid and testosterone decreased, possibly due to the decline of fawns’ body mass. The relationships between hormone levels and diet quality were surprising: Fawns fed the control diet presented higher glucocorticoid and lower testosterone levels then fawns fed the poor diet, suggesting that control fawns faced a higher nutritional stress than those on the poor diet. Similarly to other studies on social mammals, we found no relationship between faecal glucocorticoid levels and social rank, suggesting that social stress was similar for dominant and subordinate fawns during winter. Testosterone levels were not correlated to social rank as found previously in groups of individuals forming stable social hierarchies and maintaining stable dominance relationships. The simultaneous suppression of glucocorticoid and testosterone levels suggests for the first time that young ungulates present a hormonal strategy to prevent fast depletion of limited proteins and fat resources during winter.
Document Type: Article de recherche
Issue Date: 29 April 2008
Open Access Date: Restricted access
Document version: VoR
This document was published in: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Alternative version: 10.1007/s00265-008-0588-2
Collection:Articles publiés dans des revues avec comité de lecture

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