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Ecology and Evolution







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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


A fundamental tenet of maternal effects assumes that maternal variance over time should have discordant consequences for offspring traits across litters. Yet, seldom are parents observed across multiple reproductive bouts, with few studies consider‐ ing anthropogenic disturbances as an ecological driver of maternal effects. We ob‐ served captive coyote (Canis latrans) pairs over two successive litters to determine whether among‐litter differences in behavior (i.e., risk‐taking) and hormones (i.e., cortisol and testosterone) corresponded with parental plasticity in habituation. Thus, we explicitly test the hypothesis that accumulating experiences of anthropogenic disturbance reduces parental fear across reproductive bouts, which should have disparate phenotypic consequences for first‐ and second‐litter offspring. To quantify risk‐taking behavior, we used foraging assays from 5–15 weeks of age with a human observer present as a proxy for human disturbance. At 5, 10, and 15 weeks of age, we collected shaved hair to quantify pup hormone levels. We then used a quantitative genetic approach to estimate heritability, repeatability, and between‐trait correlations. We found that parents were riskier (i.e., foraged more frequently) with their second versus first litters, supporting our prediction that parents become increasingly habituated over time. Second‐litter pups were also less risk‐averse than their first‐litter siblings. Heritability for all traits did not differ from zero (0.001–0.018); however, we found moderate support for repeatability in all observed traits (r = 0.085–0.421). Lastly, we found evidence of positive phenotypic and cohort correlations among pup traits, implying that cohort identity (i.e., common environment) contributes to the development of phenotypic syndromes in coyote pups. Our results suggest that parental habituation may be an ecological cue for offspring to reduce their fear response, thus emphasizing the role of parental plasticity in shaping their pups’ behavioral and hormonal responses toward humans.