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Survival is negatively associated with glucocorticoids in a wild ungulate neonate

November 9, 2020

It is unknown how ungulate physiological responses to environmental perturbation influence overall population demographics. Moreover, neonatal physiological responses remain poorly studied despite the importance of neonatal survival to population growth. Glucocorticoid (GC) hormones potentially facilitate critical physiological and behavioral responses to environmental perturbations. However, elevated GC concentrations over time may compromise body condition and indirectly reduce survival. We evaluated baseline salivary cortisol (CORT; a primary GC in mammals) concentrations in 19 wild neonatal white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in a northern (NS) and southern (SS) area in Pennsylvania. After ranking survival models consisting of variables hypothesized to influence neonate survival (i.e. weight, sex), the probability of neonate survival was best explained by CORT concentrations, where elevated CORT concentrations were associated with reduced survival probability to 12 weeks of age. Cortisol concentrations were greater in the SS where predation rates and predator densities were lower. As the first evaluation of baseline CORT concentrations in an ungulate neonate to our knowledge, this is also the first study to demonstrate CORT concentrations are negatively associated with ungulate survival at any life stage. Glucocorticoid hormones could provide a framework in which to better understand susceptibility to mortality in neonatal white-tailed deer.

Publication Year 2021
Title Survival is negatively associated with glucocorticoids in a wild ungulate neonate
DOI 10.1111/1749-4877.12499
Authors Tess Michelle Gingery, Duane R. Diefenbach, Catharine E. Pritchard, David C. Ensminger, Bret D. Wallingford, Christopher S. Rosenberry
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Integrative Zoology
Index ID 70228577
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown