Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) has been widely used as a stress-related phenotypic marker of developmental instability. However, previous studies relating FA to various stressful conditions have produced inconsistent results and we still lack quantitative individual-level evidence that high FA is related to stress in wild vertebrate species. We studied how baseline plasma levels of corticosterone predicted FA of wing and tail feathers in free-living Eurasian treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) nestlings. We found a sex-specific association between corticosterone levels and FA: high corticosterone levels were related to an increased FA in male but not in female nestlings. These results suggest that in treecreepers, FA may correlate with individual stress hormone levels, male developmental trajectory being potentially more sensitive to stress than that of the female.
Keywords: birds, developmental instability, stress