Skip to main content

No trans-generational maternal effects of early-life corticosterone exposure on neophobia and antipredator behaviour in the house sparrow


Conditions experienced during early development can lead to profound long-lasting changes in physiology and behaviour. The extent to which such “programming” effects are transmitted to the next generation remains largely unexplored. Here, we assessed whether maternal exposure to elevated corticosterone stress hormone during early post-natal development had an impact on neophobia and antipredator behaviour in the offspring. Our data showed that maternal early-life hormonal manipulation had no impact on offspring behavioural traits. This occurred despite the treatment associated changes to metabolism, physiology and behaviour of the study mothers up until adulthood, as previously reported.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


Download references


This material is based upon work supported under a Fondation Fyssen Postdoctoral Fellowship to J.K.G. This work was supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, the CPER ECONAT, and the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR project URBASTRESS ANR-16-CE02-0004-01 to F.A.). S.M.D. was supported by a grant from the Conseil Général des Deux-Sèvres and the Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine. V.M. was supported by a FWF Der Wissenschaftsfonds Lise Meitner Fellowship (#M2520-B29). We thank C. Rose, N. Chinal, N. Da Costa, L. Peurien and G. Clausse for field work and caring for captive birds.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



JKG, SMD and FA contributed to the study conception and design as well as data collection. The analysis was performed by VM. The first draft of the manuscript was written by VM and SMD and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Frédéric Angelier.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethics approval

Permissions to capture, sample and hold house sparrows in captivity were issued by the French government (DREAL, Poitou–Charentes, permit delivered to F Angelier) and by the Muséum National d’Histoires Naturelles. All experimental procedures were approved by the French government (R45GRETAF1-10) and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and conform to guidelines set forth by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (DOCX 27 kb)

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Marasco, V., Dupont, S.M., Grace, J.K. et al. No trans-generational maternal effects of early-life corticosterone exposure on neophobia and antipredator behaviour in the house sparrow. J Ethol 39, 429–437 (2021).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Early-life stress
  • Corticosterone
  • Trans-generational effects
  • Maternal stress
  • Behaviour
  • Neophobia
  • Antipredator behaviour