In many bird species, Arctic-breeding and temperate-zone-breeding populations may have different behavioral and physiological adaptations that reflect trade-offs between immediate survival and reproductive success. Compared with their temperate-zonebreeding counterparts, Arctic breeders face shorter breeding seasons and less predictable environments. As a result, it may be necessary for Arctic breeders to employ immediate life-saving responses (facilitated through an acute adrenocortical response) that might come at the expense of immediate reproductive success. Regardless of latitude, the sexes may also face differences in the trade-off between immediate survivorship and reproductive effort. To investigate those hypotheses, we (1) measured the adrenocortical response of male and female Yellow Warblers (Dendroica petechia) at both ends of a north-south breeding distribution and (2) examined within- and between-sex variation in corticosterone secretion during distinct stages of the breeding season that represent significant differences in parental investment (e.g. incubation and nestling provisioning). As predicted, Arctic-breeding males showed a significantly reduced adrenocortical response during the nestling period (when their parental contribution was highest; mean reduction = 39%), whereas temperate-zone-breeding males showed no significant reduction (mean reduction = 12%). Arctic-breeding and temperate-zone-breeding females did not differ in their adrenocortical responses during incubation and provisioning stages, showed reduced responses when compared with temperate-zone-breeding males, and showed responses similar to those of Arctic-breeding males during the provisioning stage. These data support the hypothesis that, during the breeding season, a reduced adrenocortical response (1) is more likely to occur when the potential for brood loss is greatest and (2) is associated with the degree of parental investment by the sexes. The balance between cost(s) and benefit(s) of the adrenocortical response may vary with the relative risks to survivorship and breeding success, and may vary between populations facing different time and energy constraints.
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Vol. 121 • No. 4