Elevated glucocorticoid concentrations during gestation predict reduced reproductive success in subordinate female banded mongooses

J. L. Sanderson, H. J. Nichols, H H Marshall, E. I. K. Vitikainen, F. J. Thompson, Sue L Walker, M. A. Cant, Andrew M. J. Young

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Abstract

Dominant females in social species have been hypothesized to reduce the reproductive success of their subordinates by inducing elevated circulating glucocorticoid (GC) concentrations. However, this 'stress-related suppression' hypothesis has received little support in cooperatively breeding species, despite evident reproductive skews among females. We tested this hypothesis in the banded mongoose (Mungos mungo), a cooperative mammal in which multiple females conceive and carry to term in each communal breeding attempt. As predicted, lower ranked females had lower reproductive success, even among females that carried to term. While there were no rank-related differences in faecal glucocorticoid (fGC) concentrations prior to gestation or in the first trimester, lower ranked females had significantly higher fGC concentrations than higher ranked females in the second and third trimesters. Finally, females with higher fGC concentrations during the third trimester lost a greater proportion of their gestated young prior to their emergence from the burrow. Together, our results are consistent with a role for rank-related maternal stress in generating reproductive skew among females in this cooperative breeder. While studies of reproductive skew frequently consider the possibility that rank-related stress reduces the conception rates of subordinates, our findings highlight the possibility of detrimental effects on reproductive outcomes even after pregnancies have become established.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBIOLOGY LETTERS
Volume11
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

Keywords

  • Animals
  • Dominance-Subordination
  • Feces
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Herpestidae
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Uganda
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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