Maternal yolk testosterone in canary eggs: toward a better understanding of mechanisms and function
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
New York, NY
Behavioral ecology / International Society for Behavioral Ecology. - New York, NY
, p. 493-500
University of Antwerp
Maternal yolk androgens in avian eggs have been shown to affect numerous offspring traits. These changes in offspring phenotype represent examples of maternal effects and are thought to adjust offspring development to the posthatching environment. When studying the functional consequences of yolk hormones it is, therefore, crucial to manipulate the yolk androgen concentrations as well as the environmental conditions under which the study is performed. However, so far context-dependent effects of maternal yolk hormones have not sufficiently been taken into account, which might contribute to the current level of inconsistency in yolk androgen-mediated effects. We experimentally elevated the yolk testosterone concentrations and manipulated the sibling size hierarchy. We focused on the effects of yolk testosterone on growth and monitored begging behavior and parental feeding preferences in search of the underlying mechanisms of changes in growth. Experimental changes in the yolk testosterone concentrations significantly affected offspring phenotype. However, elevated yolk testosterone concentrations only improved the growth of chicks that were at a competitive disadvantage, whereas it benefited all chicks when placed in staged competition for food as juvenile. This emphasizes the compensatory role of yolk androgens in the context of hatching asynchrony and its context dependency. Enhanced growth did not coincide with intensified begging. Neither males nor females preferentially fed chicks hatching from eggs with elevated yolk testosterone concentrations. Enhanced growth rather resulted from yolk testosterone induced changes in physiology, of which the detailed mechanisms are yet unknown.