Prolactin concentrations predict parental investment and nest survival in a free-living shorebird

Yuqi Wang, Tamás Székely, Zhengwang Zhang, Pinjia Que

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3 Citations (SciVal)


The hormonal milieu that exists during reproduction is one of the key factors influencing the trade-off between reproductive investment and self-maintenance. Much previous work in birds has focused on prolactin as a physiological mediator since prolactin is involved in the onset and maintenance of parental care. However, how prolactin relates to reproductive success in terms of altering parental behavior in wild bird populations is not fully understood. Here, we report prolactin concentrations in breeding Kentish plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus), a small shorebird with variable mating systems and parental care, as an ecological model of mating system evolution. Throughout the breeding season, we estimated the circulating prolactin concentrations in male and female plovers during incubation. In addition, we monitored parental behavior and determined the fate of nests. We found that prolactin concentrations decreased during incubation but increased with clutch completion date. In addition, males and females with high prolactin concentrations spent more time on incubation than those with low prolactin concentrations. Importantly, higher prolactin concentrations in either males or females predict higher nest survival. Our results suggest that prolactin is an indicator of parental behavior in a wild shorebird population, although additional studies including experimental manipulation of prolactin concentrations are necessary to verify this relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104633
JournalHormones and Behavior
Early online date5 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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