The glucocorticoid stress response is attenuated but unrelated to reproductive investment during parental care in a teleost fish Academic Article uri icon

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  • We investigated whether circulating glucocorticoids and androgens are correlated with reproductive investment in smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), a teleost fish with sole paternal care. Circulating cortisol and androgens prior to and 25 min following a standardized 3 min emersion stressor were quantified for non-reproductive and parental fish across the parental care period. To experimentally investigate the influence of reproductive investment on endocrine parameters, we manipulated brood size (reduced, enlarged, sham-treated, or unmanipulated) 24h prior to sampling parental fish. We predicted that fish guarding offspring would exhibit increased androgens and baseline cortisol levels, and an attenuated cortisol response to the stressor when compared with non-reproductive individuals. We further predicted that these effects would scale with reproductive investment. As predicted, parental care-providing fish exhibited lower post-stress plasma cortisol concentrations than non-reproductive fish. This difference was strongest early during parental care. However, no differences in baseline or post-stress cortisol concentrations were detected among parents guarding offspring with varying brood sizes. There was, however, a trend for parental fish to exhibit an increased cortisol response following brood manipulation, regardless of the direction of change in brood size, a response that likely reflected disturbance. No differences were found in baseline cortisol concentrations. Circulating androgens were found to be highest during early parental care, and no differences were found among parents guarding manipulated broods. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that the endocrine stress response is affected by reproductive status, but the response in this model species does not appear to be scaled according to reproductive investment as predicted by life-history theory.


  • O’Connor, Constance M
  • Yick, Claire Y
  • Gilmour, Kathleen M
  • Van Der Kraak, Glen
  • Cooke, Steven J

publication date

  • January 2011