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Because endocrine mechanisms are thought to mediate behavioral responses to changes in the environment, examining these mechanisms is essential for understanding how long-lived seabirds adjust their foraging decisions to contrasting environmental conditions in order to maximize their fitness. In this context, the hormone corticosterone (CORT) deserves specific attention because of its major connections with locomotor activities. We examined for the first time the relationships between individual CORT levels and measurements of foraging success and behavior using satellite tracking and blood sampling from wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) before (pretrip CORT levels) and after (posttrip CORT levels) foraging trips during the incubation period. Plasma CORT levels decreased after a foraging trip, and the level of posttrip CORT was negatively correlated with individual foraging success, calculated as total mass gain over a foraging trip. Pretrip CORT levels were not linked to time spent at sea but were positively correlated with daily distance traveled and maximum range at sea. In this study, we were able to highlight the sensitivity of CORT levels to variation in energy intake, and we showed for the first time that individual CORT levels can be explained by variation in foraging success. Relationships between pretrip CORT levels and daily distance traveled and maximum range were independent of pretrip body mass, suggesting that slight elevations in pretrip CORT levels might facilitate locomotor activity. However, because both foraging behavior and pretrip CORT levels could be affected by individual quality, future experimental studies including manipulation of CORT levels are needed to test whether CORT can mediate foraging decisions according to foraging conditions.


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