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Mean fecal glucocorticoid metabolites are associated with vigilance, whereas immediate cortisol levels better reflect acute anti-predator responses in meerkats




  • Voellmy, Irene K., Goncalves, Ines Braga, Barrette, Marie-France, Monfort, Steven L. and Manser, Marta B.


  • Adrenal hormones likely affect anti-predator behavior in animals. With experimental field studies, we first investigated associations between mean fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCs) excretion and vigilance and with behavioral responses to alarm call playbacks in free-ranging meerkats (Suricata suricatta). We then tested how vigilance and behavioral responses to alarm call playbacks were affected in individuals administered exogenous cortisol. We found a positive association between mean fGCs concentrations and vigilance behavior, but no relationship with the intensity of behavioral responses to alarm calls. However, in response to alarm call playbacks, individuals administered cortisol took slightly longer to resume foraging than control individuals treated with saline solution. Vigilance behavior, which occurs in the presence and absence of dangerous stimuli, serves to detect and avoid potential dangers, whereas responses to alarm calls serve to avoid immediate predation. Our data show that mean fGCs excretion in meerkats was associated with vigilance, as a re-occurring anti-predator behavior over long time periods, and experimentally induced elevations of plasma cortisol affected the response to immediate threats. Together, our results indicate an association between the two types of anti-predator behavior and glucocorticoids, but that the underlying mechanisms may differ. Our study emphasizes the need to consider appropriate measures of adrenal activity specific to different contexts when assessing links between stress physiology and different anti-predator behaviors.

Published In

Publication Date

  • 2014



Digital Object Identifier (doi)

Additional Document Info

Start Page

  • 759

End Page

  • 765


  • 66


  • 5