Title
Maternal yolk androgens stimulate territorial behaviour in black-headed gull chicks Maternal yolk androgens stimulate territorial behaviour in black-headed gull chicks
Author
Faculty/Department
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Publication type
article
Publication
London ,
Subject
Biology
Source (journal)
Biology letters / Royal Society [London] - London
Volume/pages
5(2009) :5 , p. 586-588
ISSN
1744-9561
ISI
000269699300004
Carrier
E
Target language
English (eng)
Full text (Publishers DOI)
Affiliation
University of Antwerp
Abstract
Avian eggs contain substantial amounts of maternal androgens. The concentrations of these yolk androgens are affected by the maternal environment, such as the level of social competition, parasite exposure or food conditions. Since yolk androgens have been shown to affect a wide array of offspring traits, they may adjust the chicks to the expected post-hatching environment, but experimental evidence is still scarce. We investigate in colonial breeding black-headed gulls whether high concentrations of yolk androgens, such as those found in environments with high numbers of social interactions, facilitate aggressiveness and territorial behaviour of the chicks. Black-headed gulls are highly suitable for this, as the semi-precocial chicks defend the natal territory and food against intruders. We manipulated yolk androgen concentrations and investigated their role in both within-nest and between-nest aggression. We found that chicks hatching from androgen-treated eggs defended the natal territory more often than their nest mates from control eggs, without increasing sibling aggression. This suggests that variation in yolk androgen concentrations in relation to the social environment of the mother may indeed allow adjustment of the offspring's behaviour to the expected frequency of territorial interactions with conspecifics post-hatching.
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