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Reactive stress-coping styles show more variable reproductive expenditure and fitness outcomes.

Twiss, Sean D. and Shuert, Courtney R. and Brannan, Naomi and Bishop, Amanda M. and Pomeroy, Patrick. P. (2020) 'Reactive stress-coping styles show more variable reproductive expenditure and fitness outcomes.', Scientific reports., 10 (1). p. 9550.


Stress-coping styles dictate how individuals react to stimuli and can be measured by the integrative physiological parameter of resting heart-rate variability (HRV); low resting HRV indicating proactive coping styles, while high resting HRV typifies reactive individuals. Over 5 successive breeding seasons we measured resting HRV of 57 lactating grey seals. Mothers showed consistent individual differences in resting HRV across years. We asked whether proactive and reactive mothers differed in their patterns of maternal expenditure and short-term fitness outcomes within seasons, using maternal daily mass loss rate to indicate expenditure, and pup daily mass gain to indicate within season fitness outcomes. We found no difference in average rates of maternal daily mass loss or pup daily mass gain between proactive and reactive mothers. However, reactive mothers deviated more from the sample mean for maternal daily mass and pup daily mass gain than proactive mothers. Thus, while proactive mothers exhibit average expenditure strategies with average outcomes, expenditure varies much more among reactive mothers with more variable outcomes. Overall, however, mean fitness was equal across coping styles, providing a mechanism for maintaining coping style diversity within populations. Variability in reactive mothers’ expenditures and success is likely a product of their attempts to match phenotype to prevailing environmental conditions, achieved with varying degrees of success.

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Date accepted:22 May 2020
Date deposited:12 June 2020
Date of first online publication:12 June 2020
Date first made open access:12 June 2020

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