ABS 2022
Is early life adversity associated with adult stress?
Alyssa Y. Kong1, 2, Xochitl Ortiz-Ross1, 2, Daniel T. Blumstein1, 2. 1University of California, Los Angeles Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Los Angeles, CA, United States; 2Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Gothic, CO, United States

Early life is an important stage of life when most development occurs. Studies in both humans and other animals show that adverse experiences in early life contribute to poorer health, fitness, and survival later in life. While the mechanisms are still unclear, some studies have found that early life adversity (ELA) can dysregulate the stress response. In natural populations, many ELA studies focus on a single stressor. However, we know much less about the cumulative impacts of multiple early life stressors. We used a novel cumulative adversity index for female yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventer) and asked whether it was associated with adult glucocorticoid levels. After accounting for current stressors in the environment, we found no significant effect of ELA on adult glucocorticoid levels in female marmots that survived to adulthood. Rather, current stressors explained more variation in glucocorticoid levels than early-life stressors. Marmot stress regulation appears resilient to some early-life stressors. Importantly, our results suggest there is value in studying the relative importance of early life and later stressors on stress physiology in wild populations.