Testosterone influences song behaviour and social dominance : but independent of prenatal yolk testosterone exposure
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
General and comparative endocrinology. - New York
, p. 80-87
University of Antwerp
In the last two decades, maternally derived yolk androgens have been shown to significantly alter offspring development, and a number of these effects persist into adulthood. However, little is known about their underlying mechanisms. Mechanisms that have been suggested are changes in the endogenous androgen production post-hatching or changes in the sensitivity towards circulating androgens. We tested the effects of yolk testosterone on the plasma testosterone levels and the sensitivity to testosterone in 5 months old male canaries that hatched from eggs that were either injected with testosterone (yT-males) or with a control solution (yC-males). Changes in sensitivity were investigated via the behavioural response to an experimental elevation of the plasma testosterone levels. We performed the experiment in fall (low endogenous testosterone production), focusing on testosterone dependent response traits (aggression and song). Before implantation, there was a non-significant trend that the plasma testosterone levels were lower in yT-males than in yC-males. Elevating the plasma testosterone concentrations increased aggressiveness, song bout length and similarity of repeated song elements (=consistency), with the latter likely being a consequence of testosterone-driven song crystallization. However, these effects were not different among yT- or yC-males in any of the parameters. Thus, our findings render it unlikely that changes in the sensitivity to testosterone post-hatching would form the main underlying mechanism of hormone-mediated maternal effects in birds. Further experiments are urgently needed in order to understand the nature of the phenotypic effects resulting from embryonic exposure to maternal yolk testosterone.