Cooperative breeding alters physiological and behavioral responses to habitat fragmentation

Elsevier, iScience, Volume 27, 19 January 2024
Apfelbeck B., Cousseau L., Kung'u G.N., Canoine V., Heiskanen J., Korir D.K. et al.

Animals respond to habitat alteration with changes in their behavior and physiology. These changes determine individual performance and thus precede changes in population size. They are therefore hypothesized to provide important insights into how animals cope with environmental change. Here, we investigated physiological and behavioral responses of a cooperatively breeding bird, the placid greenbul (Phyllastrephus placidus), in a severely fragmented tropical biodiversity hotspot and combined these data with remotely sensed (LiDAR) environmental data. We found that individuals had increased glucocorticoid hormone levels when breeding in territories with low native canopy cover or located within small fragments. However, when breeding with the help of subordinates, breeders in low quality territories had similar glucocorticoid levels as those in higher quality territories. Our study shows that sociality may impact how well animals cope with environmental change and contributes to our understanding of the role of glucocorticoid physiology and behavior in response to anthropogenic change.