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Horm Behav. 2003 Apr;43(4):480-8.

Plasma corticosterone in American kestrel siblings: effects of age, hatching order, and hatching asynchrony.

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  • 1Avian Science and Conservation Centre, McGill University, 21111 Lakeshore Drive, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, H9X 3V9, Canada. olovea@sfu.ca


Although it is well documented that hatching asynchrony in birds can lead to competitive and developmental hierarchies, potentially greatly affecting growth and survival of nestlings, hatching asynchrony may also precipitate modulations in neuroendocrine development or function. Here we examine sibling variation in adrenocortical function in postnatally developing, asynchronously hatching American kestrels (Falco sparverius) by measurements of baseline and stress-induced levels of corticosterone at ages 10, 16, 22, and 28 days posthatching. There was a significant effect of hatching order on both baseline and stress-induced corticosterone levels during development and these effects grew stronger through development. First-hatched chicks exhibited higher baseline levels than later-hatched chicks throughout development and higher stress-induced levels during the latter half of development. Furthermore, there was significant hatching span (difference in days between first- and last-hatched chicks) x hatching order interaction on both baseline and stress-induced corticosterone levels during development. Hatching span was also positively correlated with both measures of corticosterone and body mass in first-hatched chicks, but was negatively correlated with these factors through most of the development in last-hatched chicks. It is known that hatching asynchrony creates mass and size hierarchies within kestrel broods and we suggest that hierarchies in adrenocortical function among siblings may be one physiological mechanism by which these competitive hierarchies are maintained.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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