Seasonal patterns of prolactin and corticosterone secretion in an Antarctic seabird that moults during reproduction

  • Crossin G
  • Dawson A
  • Phillips R
 et al. 
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In avian species that have evolved life-history strategies wherein molt and breeding overlap, there are potential conflicts between the regulatory roles of baseline prolactin and corticosterone in parental care (positive) and moult (negative). We describe seasonal patterns of hormonal secretion, moult, and parental behaviour in sibling species of giant petrels (Macronectes spp.) which begin moult during the incubation/early chick-rearing stage of reproduction. With the exception of male Southern giant petrels (Macronectes giganteus), prolactin secretion and moult in Northern (Macronectes halli) and female Southern giant petrels conformed to those observed in all other avian species, with the initiation of moult coincident with decreases from peak prolactin levels. However, male Southern giant petrels began moulting early in incubation when prolactin was increasing and had not yet peaked, which suggests a requirement of prolactin for incubation behaviour and a dissociation of prolactin from moult. Corticosterone showed little seasonal variation and no relationship with moult. When comparing prolactin, corticosterone, and moult in failed vs. active breeders, we found that failed breeding enabled a more rapid down-regulation of prolactin, thus facilitating a more rapid moult. We present specific examples of the behavioural ecology of giant petrels which we conclude help mediate any potential hormonal conflicts between parental care and moult. © 2011.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Chick rearing
  • Corticosterone
  • Foraging behaviour
  • Giant petrel
  • Incubation
  • Life-history
  • Macronectes
  • Parental care
  • Physiological conflict
  • Prolactin

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  • Glenn T. Crossin

  • Alistair Dawson

  • Richard A. Phillips

  • Phil N. Trathan

  • Kristen B. Gorman

  • Stacey Adlard

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