Supplementary Materials from The lingering impact of stress: brief acute glucocorticoid exposure has sustained, dose-dependent effects on reproduction
Acutely stressful experiences can have profound and persistent effects on phenotype. Across taxa, individuals differ remarkably in their susceptibility to stress. However, the mechanistic causes of enduring stress effects, and of individual differences in stress susceptibility, are poorly understood. Here, we tested whether brief, acute increases in glucocorticoid hormones have persistent effects on phenotype, and whether effects differ according to the magnitude or duration of elevation. We
... of elevation. We used a novel method to non-invasively manipulate hormone levels on short time scales: the application of corticosterone gel to a model egg secured in the nest. Free-living female tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) exposed to several brief corticosterone increases during incubation showed dose-dependent differences in behaviour throughout the reproductive period. Birds receiving treatments that simulated higher or longer acute stress responses later provisioned larger broods at lower rates; the resulting offspring were smaller in size. Treatment did not influence female body condition, oxidative stress, reproductive success or inter-annual survival, but exposed females maintained higher baseline corticosterone after treatments ceased. Overall, these results indicate that brief, acute elevations in glucocorticoids in adulthood can have long-term consequences. Furthermore, individuals that mount a greater or longer acute stress response may be more likely to experience lingering effects of stress.