Negative effects of yolk testosterone and ticks on growth in canaries
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Journal of experimental zoology: part A: comparative experimental biology. - Bognor Regis
, p. 553-561
University of Antwerp
Maternal yolk hormones in bird eggs are thought to adjust the offspring to the post-hatching environment. This implies that the effects of maternal yolk hormones should vary with the post-hatching environment, but to date such context-dependency has largely been ignored. We experimentally increased yolk testosterone concentrations in canary eggs and simultaneously manipulated the post-hatching context via an experimental tick-infestation of the chicks. This allows us to evaluate the context-dependency of hormone-mediated maternal effects, as it has previously been shown that ectoparasites alter the maternal yolk androgen deposition. The experimental tick infestation reduced growth in chicks from sham-treated eggs, indicating harmful effects of this ectoparasite in canaries. Chicks from testosterone-treated eggs were not affected in their development by ticks, suggesting lower ectoparasite vulnerability. But this may also be due to the fact that experimentally elevated yolk testosterone levels impaired growth even under parasite-free conditions. This contrasts previous studies, but these studies often manipulated first laid eggs, while we used eggs of subsequent laying positions. Later laid eggs are presumably of lower quality and contain higher yolk testosterone concentrations. Thus, the effects of elevated yolk testosterone on growth may be dose-dependent or vary with the egg quality, suggesting prenatal context-dependency.