Reversed hatching order, body condition and corticosterone levels in chicks of southern rockhopper penguins (**Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome**)
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
General and comparative endocrinology. - New York
, p. 244-249
University of Antwerp
In altricial and semi-altricial species, asynchronous hatching gives the first chicks to hatch an initial advantage over other siblings and often leads to the elimination of the smallest chicks. Both baseline corticosterone and acute stress-induced corticosterone levels have been shown to be higher in food deprived chicks than in chicks fed ad libitum. However, first-hatched chicks have also been shown to exhibit higher corticosterone levels than last-hatched chicks, suggesting an influence of the initial differences between eggs on corticosterone levels. We subjected single-chicks of southern rockhopper penguins Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome to a standardised capture-stress protocol. In this species having very dimorphic two-egg clutches, we examined whether corticosterone levels were different between the two chick categories and tested for the effect of body condition controlled by the chick category. Neither body sizes, nor corticosterone levels differed between A- and B-chicks at 18 days. In contrast to baseline corticosterone levels, acute stress-induced levels of corticosterone were negatively correlated to body condition: chicks with a good body condition had lower acute stress-induced levels of corticosterone than chicks with a poor condition, whatever the chick category. Our results do not support the idea that initial differences in egg characteristics could drive the difference in corticosterone levels between siblings. On the contrary, they show that the A-egg of rockhopper penguins has, when reared alone, the same intrinsic potential to develop into a fledged chick as the B-egg. Later differences in body condition appear to lead to variation in the acute stress-induced levels of corticosterone.