Title
Elevated yolk androgen levels and the expression of multiple sexually selected male characters
Author
Faculty/Department
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Publication type
article
Publication
New York ,
Subject
Biology
Source (journal)
Hormones and behavior. - New York
Volume/pages
55(2009) :1 , p. 175-181
ISSN
0018-506X
ISI
000262775500023
Carrier
E
Target language
English (eng)
Full text (Publishers DOI)
Affiliation
University of Antwerp
Abstract
Maternal hormones in bird eggs modulate not only offspring development, but recently it has also been shown that these effects can persist into adult life. A number of long-lasting effects concern traits of which the expression or development is modulated by androgens. This suggests that the nature of yolk hormone-mediated maternal effects may be organizational. Maternal androgens may therefore play an important role in sexual selection, since the expression of sexually selected male characters is often androgen-dependent. We experimentally manipulated the yolk androgen concentrations of European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) eggs. Subsequently we followed 49 unrelated males from hatching until year of first reproduction. We investigated the expression of multiple sexually selected male characters (song, beak color and throat feather characteristics), taking into account whether a trait is androgen-dependent. Elevated levels of yolk androgens affected the length of the embryonic period, but did not modify the expression of either androgen-dependent or androgen-independent sexually selected male characters including song phenotype at adulthood. Thus the most important function of yolk androgens in starlings and possibly other bird species may relate to the early developmental period. The outcome of our study together with the results of our meta-analysis indicates that the effects of yolk androgens on sexually selected male characters may be comparatively small. Our results suggest that this may relate to the numerous other environmental and/or genetic factors influencing the expression of sexually selected male characters.
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