Original Paper

Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, 179:297

First online:

Size of ornament is negatively correlated with baseline corticosterone in males of a socially monogamous colonial seabird

  • Hector D. DouglasIIIAffiliated withInstitute of Marine Science, University of Alaska FairbanksBiology Department, Kuskokwim Campus, CRCD, University of Alaska Fairbanks Email author 
  • , Alexander S. KitayskyAffiliated withInstitute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • , Evgenia V. KitaiskaiaAffiliated withInstitute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • , Aidan MaccormickAffiliated withDivision of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow
  • , Anke KellyAffiliated withDepartment of Animal Physiology, University of BayreuthBiology Department, Brandeis University

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The Goymann–Wingfield model predicts that glucocorticoid levels in social animals reflect the costs of acquiring and maintaining social status. The crested auklet is one of the few avian colonial species where a mutual ornament in males and females is used in both sexual and aggressive displays. Previous studies of the crested auklet support the notion that the crest ornament is a badge of status in this species. Here, we examined the relationship between the crest ornament size and the adrenocortical function in breeding crested auklets. Crest length was negatively correlated with corticosterone at baseline in males, but not in females. Baseline corticosterone in females (but not in males) was negatively correlated with body condition index. Although male and female crested auklets are monomorphic in their ornamental traits, our results suggest that the socially mediated physiological costs associated with status signaling may differ between the sexes.


Corticosterone Ornament Physiological condition Body condition Allostasis