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European Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus chick, seven days old and capable of endothermic thermoregulation. 1 September 2010, Mousa, Shetland. © Hannah Watson.

European Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus chick, seven days old and capable of endothermic thermoregulation. 1 September 2010, Mousa, Shetland. © Hannah Watson.

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... In 2011, which was characterized by slower growth, reproductive success was 14% lower (Watson et al., 2014) and nestlings experienced accelerated telomere attrition and fledged with shorter telomeres; this is indicative of greater stress exposure and lower survival probability (Watson et al., 2015), compared with 2010, collectively suggesting that environmental conditions were less favourable. Data from the nearest meteorological station (Lerwick, 33 km) revealed conditions were windier in the first half of August (coinciding with early chick rearing) in 2011 (see Watson, 2013), which could have contributed to reductions in provisioning rates and subsequently impaired chick growth. Despite the observation of inter-annual variation in growth rates and telomere dynamics, this source of environmental variability was not reflected in circulating baseline levels of CORT, which provides further evidence that baseline CORT in storm petrel nestlings is not responsive to chronic stress. ...
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Prolonged or repeated episodes of environmental stress could be especially detrimental for developing young, via impaired growth or development. Despite this, most studies investigating the effects of human recreational and tourism activities have focused on adults. An increasing demand for nature-based tourism in remote locations means that many seabirds, which have evolved largely in the absence of predators and humans, are being exposed to novel pressures. The slow-growing semi-precocial nestlings of the European storm petrel Hydrobates pelagicus experience higher mortality rates in nests exposed to human recreational disturbance. Here, we examine whether surviving nestlings reared in disturbed areas are also affected via changes in growth trajectories and baseline circulating glucocorticoids. Nestlings reared in high-disturbance areas displayed delayed mass growth, and we found weak evidence for slower rates of mass gain and tarsus growth, compared with nestlings reared in undisturbed areas. There were no differences in wing growth, consistent with prioritization of long wings, important for post-fledging survival. A tendency for a less marked age-related decline in corticosterone (CORT) in disturbed nestlings offers limited evidence that changes in growth trajectories were mediated by baseline CORT. However, disturbed nestlings could have experienced overall higher GC exposure if the acute GC response was elevated. ‘Catch-up’ growth enabled high-disturbance nestlings to overcome early constraints and achieve a similar, or even larger, asymptotic body size and mass as low-disturbance nestlings. While catch-up growth has been shown to carry costs for parents and offspring, the effects of disturbance were slight and considerably smaller than growth alterations driven by variation in environmental conditions between years. Nonetheless, effects of human recreational activities could be exacerbated under higher levels of human disturbance or in the presence of multiple pressures, as imposed by present rapid rates of environmental change.
... In temperate areas hypothermia is often related to periods of cold or severe weather that make foraging impossible or decrease prey abundance (Doucette et al., 2012;Kunz, 1988). In regions like Antarctica prey abundance and therefore foraging success is probably usually not depressed by low temperatures (Quillfeldt, 2001), but weather extremes like strong winds or snowstorms, may lead to hypothermia due to fasting (Watson, 2013). ...
... Only when survival is threatened by starvation it would be advantageous to lower their metabolic rate and to conserve their remaining energy resources. Studies on other storm-petrels came to similar conclusions, hypothermia was reported to occur after fasting or weather events that had presumably negative impact on provisioning (Boersma, 1986;Watson, 2013). This is additionally supported by the fact that after only one or two days of fasting a majority of chicks were still normotherm, while after three or more days hypothermia became more frequent and only few chicks maintained active body temperatures ( Figure 6, Figure 7, Table 1). ...
... During severe environmental conditions, like low ambient temperature or high wind speed, other authors reported enhanced hypothermic behavior (Dietz and Kalko, 2006;Geiser, 2004Geiser, , 1988Watson, 2013). In our study we could not find such an influence of maximal nocturnal wind speed on Wilson's storm-petrel chicks' body temperature, but minimal nocturnal temperatures influenced their body temperatures negatively. ...
... The parents of P. jocosus brooded nestlings and provided more invertebrates when nestlings were younger. As altricial nestlings are poikilotherms, for several days after hatching they need parents to keep them warm (Ricklefs & Hainsworth, 1968;Watson, 2013). The age-related changes in nestling diet might because that the adults of P. jocosus eat more plant foods in their diet (Yang et al, 2004). ...
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... Using a larger dataset from the same population, we found that, in 2011, parents spent less time brooding their young and maximal growth rate (in respect of mass) occurred later (H.W., unpublished results). An increased frequency of extreme weather events in 2011 (Watson, 2014) might have been a key factor influencing breeding success and parental care. Irrespective of the mechanism(s), this study presents good evidence for environmental conditions influencing the rate of telomere loss and shaping variation in early-life telomere dynamics between cohorts. ...
... Fledging success (of eggs hatched) was significantly lower in 2011 (0.60), compared with 2010 (0.78) (see Watson et al., 2014). This was probably linked, in part, to an increased frequency of extreme weather events in 2011 (Watson, 2014). It is not always clear what environmental correlates are relevant, however, and overall breeding performance of a population is widely used as a measure of the natal environment (e.g. ...
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Conditions experienced during early life can have profound consequences for both short and long-term fitness. Variation in the natal environment has been shown to influence survival and reproductive performance of entire cohorts in wild vertebrate populations. Telomere dynamics potentially provide a link between the early environment and long-term fitness outcomes, yet we know little about how the environment can influence telomere dynamics in early life. We found that environmental conditions during growth have an important influence on early-life telomere length (TL) and attrition in nestlings of a long-lived bird, the European storm petrel Hydrobates pelagicus. Nestlings reared under unfavourable environmental conditions experienced significantly greater telomere loss during postnatal development compared with nestlings reared under more favourable natal conditions, which displayed a negligible change in TL. There was, however, no significant difference in pre-fledging TL between cohorts. The results suggest that early-life telomere dynamics could contribute to the marked differences in life-history traits that can arise among cohorts reared under different environmental conditions. Early-life TL was also found to be a significant predictor of survival during the nestling phase, providing further evidence for a link between variation in TL and individual fitness. To what extent the relationship between early-life TL and mortality during the nestling phase is a consequence of genetic, parental and environmental factors is currently unknown, but an interesting area for future research. Accelerated telomere attrition under unfavourable conditions, as observed in this study, might play a role in mediating the effects of the early-life environment on later-life performance.
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