Reproduction elevates the corticosterone stress response in common fruit bats

Stefan M. Klose*, Carolynn L. Smith, Andrea J. Denzel, E. K V Kalko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in reproductive state or the environment may affect the sensitivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-andrenal (HPA) axis. However, little is known about the dynamics of the resulting corticosteroid stress response, in particular in tropical mammals. In this study, we address the modulation of corticosterone release in response to different reproductive conditions and seasonality in 326 free-living common fruit-eating bats (Artibeus jamaicensis) on Barro Colorado Island in Panama during dry and wet seasons. We present strong evidence that stress sensitivity is primarily modulated by reproductive condition. In reproductively active females, corticosterone increases were more rapid and reached higher levels, but also decreased significantly faster than in inactive females. The corticosterone response was weaker in reproducing males than in females and delayed compared to non-reproductive males. Testes volume in reproductively active males was negatively correlated with corticosterone concentrations. Our findings suggest differentiated dynamics in the corticosterone stress response between sexes, potentially reflecting conflicting ecological demands. In females, a strong acute corticosterone response may represent high stress- and risk-sensitivity that facilitates escape and thus helps to protect reproduction. In males, suppression during reproductive activity could reflect lowered stress sensitivity to avoid chronically elevated corticosterone levels in times of frequent aggressive and therefore costly inter-male encounters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-350
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


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