Periodic Reporting for period 1 - STressD (Stressfully Transmitted Diseases: How your partner’s past stress affects your current and future health)
Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2019-04-30
The experiments used the zebra finch as a model species, and applied an integrative approach, combining physiological, behavioural, and life-history measures. Early-life stress was manipulated by controlled dosing of glucocorticoid hormones (a product of the HPA axis) to half of the subjects (matched numbers of males and females). After sexual maturity, reproductive pairs were created that had two control subjects, one early-life stressed and one control subject, or two early-life stressed subjects. Physiological samples were collected before and after reproduction to determine the degree to which HPA axis activity and telomere length of individuals and their partners changed. Parental care behaviours (e.g. coordination of parental care) were recorded during reproduction. A social buffering experiment was also carried out, where we observed how partners interacted when one pair member had experienced an acutely stressful event. Measures of HPA axis activity were also taken to determine whether it predicted stress buffering behaviours.
The first set of results are on parental behaviour, and indicate that early-life stress in either parent impaired male coordination but had negligible effects on male parental care effort, whereas early-life stress in one or both parents increased female parental care effort but had insignificant effects on female coordination. Reproductive success, however, was similar across pair types. Data on the change in HPA axis activity and telomere length, and social buffering experiment are currently being analysed.