Post-hatching parental care behaviour and hormonal status in a precocial bird.

Institut pluridisciplinaire Hubert-Curien, département écologie, physiologie et éthologie, UMR 7178 CNRS-ULP, 23, rue Becquerel, 67087 Strasbourg cedex 2, France.
Behavioural Processes (Impact Factor: 1.51). 12/2007; 76(3):206-14. DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2007.05.003
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In birds, the link between parental care behaviour and prolactin release during incubation persists after hatching in altricial birds, but has never been precisely studied during the whole rearing period in precocial species, such as ducks. The present study aims to understand how changes in parental care after hatching are related to circulating prolactin levels in mallard hens rearing ducklings. Blood was sampled in hens over at least 13 post-hatching weeks and the behaviour of the hens and the ducklings was recorded daily until fledging. Contacts between hens and the ducklings, leadership of the ducklings and gathering of them steadily decreased over post-hatching time. Conversely, resting, preening and agonistic behaviour of hens towards ducklings increased. Plasma prolactin concentrations remained at high levels after hatching and then fell after week 6 when body mass and structural size of the young were close to those of the hen. Parental care behaviour declined linearly with brood age, showed a disruption of the hen-brood bond at week 6 post-hatching and was related to prolactin concentration according to a sigmoid function. Our results suggest that a definite threshold in circulating prolactin is necessary to promote and/or to maintain post-hatching parental care in ducks.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In order to maximize their fitness, animals have to deal with different environmental and social factors that affect their everyday life. Although the way an animal behaves might enhance its fitness or survival in regard to one factor, it could compromise them regarding another. In the domain of decision sciences, research concerning decision making focuses on performances at the individual level but also at the collective one. However, between individual and collective decision making, different terms are used resulting in little or no connection between both research areas. In this paper, we reviewed how different branches of decision sciences study the same concept, mainly called speed-accuracy trade-off, and how the different results are on the same track in terms of showing the optimality of decisions. Whatever the level, individual or collective, each decision might be defined with three parameters: time or delay to decide, risk and accuracy. We strongly believe that more progress would be possible in this domain of research if these different branches were better linked, with an exchange of their results and theories. A growing amount of literature describes economics in humans and eco-ethology in birds making compromises between starvation, predation and reproduction. Numerous studies have been carried out on social cognition in primates but also birds and carnivores, and other publications describe market or reciprocal exchanges of commodities. We therefore hope that this paper will lead these different areas to a common decision science.
    Animal Cognition 04/2013; · 2.71 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The debate concerning the relative importance of the costs and benefits of parental investment decisions has created considerable controversy. This is especially true in the discussion for duck species, where the link between ending of parental care and offspring survival has not been fully determined. This experimental study tests whether mallard ducklings (Anas platyrhynchos; a non-crèching species with maternal care-) achieve maximum survival potential before the typical ending of the hen-brood bond. As mortality rates are at their highest during the first two weeks post-hatching, our experimental investigation of survival was restricted to ducklings from 2 weeks of age until fledging, in non-deserted (ND, control group; n=36) and prematurely abandoned (D, deserted treatment group; n=35) broods under free-ranging conditions. The experiment was conducted over two years to take differences in weather conditions into account. According to age periods, survival rates ranged from 65 to 95% in the D group and from 97 to 100% in the ND. Survival probability of deserted ducklings was 23% lower than that of the control group (p < 0.001) in 15 to 30 day old ducklings but was similar (p > 0.09) thereafter. Assuming that the hen-brood bond is time-disrupted at ~6 weeks post-hatching, our results are consistent with the idea that trade-offs associated with the provision and the consequent ceasing of maternal care have evolved according to the intrinsic ability of ducklings to survive on their own at ~4 weeks post-hatching. The dissipation of the behavioural-hormonal processes underlying the hen-brood bond probably requires a delay between these two events. The maintaining of maternal care for ~4 weeks post-hatching also coincides with the most critical periods of duckling vulnerability after hatching, during which the hen has an important anti-predator role to play.
    Wildlife Biology in Practice. 01/2010;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we review the relationships that link avian parental behavior, stress (acute or chronic) and energetic constraints to the secretion of prolactin, the 'parental hormone'. Prolactin secretion is stimulated by exposure of the parent to tactile and visual stimuli from the nest, the eggs or the chicks, while prolactin facilitates/stimulates the expression of parental behaviors, such as incubating, brooding or feeding. Because of this role of prolactin in the expression of parental behaviors, we suggest that absolute circulating prolactin levels may reflect to the extent to which individuals provide parental care (i.e., parental effort). Stressors and energetic constraints (acute or chronic) depress prolactin levels ('the prolactin stress response') and this may be adaptive because it may disrupt the current parental effort of an individual and promote its survival. Alternatively, an attenuation of the prolactin stress response can be considered as a hormonal tactic permitting the maintenance of parental care to the detriment of parental survival during stressful situations. Therefore, we suggest that the magnitude of the prolactin stress response may reflect parental investment. Finally, we detail the interaction that links corticosterone, prolactin and stress in bird parents. We suggest that corticosterone and prolactin may mediate different components of the stress response, and, therefore, we emphasize the importance of considering both hormones when investigating the hormonal basis of parental investment.
    General and Comparative Endocrinology 05/2009; 163(1-2):142-8. · 2.82 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Available from
Jun 6, 2014