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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Effects of testosterone on song, aggression, and nestling feeding behavior in male great tits, Parus major.

As outlined in the trade-off hypothesis of testosterone (T) secretion, fluctuations in T during the breeding season might reflect how males allocate their time and energy to competitive behaviors for mates and territories, associated with high T levels, and parental activities, associated with low T levels. In the present study, great tit, Parus major, males were implanted with T-filled or empty silastic capsules at the start of the breeding season and the behavior of these two male categories was compared during the entire breeding season. As a measure of competitive behavior we looked at song behavior and territorial responsiveness to a male decoy, during the three main stages of the breeding period (the egg-laying, incubation, and nestling stages). As a measure of parental care we looked at feeding behavior during the nestling stage. Our results only partly supported the trade-off hypothesis. T implants increased plasma androgen levels and enhanced spontaneous song activity and the production of aggressive vocalizations in response to a decoy. However, our results suggest that the degree of physical aggression might be less than fully coupled with T. First, approach to the decoy was not affected by the treatment. Second, although T levels are known to vary from high during egg laying to low while feeding young, control and T-treated males spent similar amounts of time close to the decoy in the three breeding stages. Our results thus suggest that vocal and physical aggression might be regulated differently in the great tit. Furthermore, in contrast with most other studies on temperate bird species but in agreement with a previous study on the great tit, T treatment did not affect male feeding rates. As the dose of T we used was lower than that typically used in other studies, we cannot at present completely exclude the possibility that the latter result reflects this lower dose of T rather than the species used.[1]


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