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Goymann W.,Max Planck Institute For Ornithologie | Wingfield J.C.,University of California at Davis
Behavioral Ecology | Year: 2014

Testosterone is a key hormone for the development of secondary sexual characters and dimorphisms in behavior and morphology of male vertebrates. Because females often express detectable levels of testosterone, testosterone has been suggested to also play a role in the modulation of secondary sexual traits in females. Previous comparative analyses in birds and fish demonstrated a relationship between male-to-female testosterone ratios and the degree of sexual dimorphism. Furthermore, female maximum testosterone was related to mating system and coloniality. Here, we reevaluate these previous ideas using phylogenetic analyses and effect size measures for the relationship between birds' male-to-female maximum testosterone levels. Further, we investigate the seasonal androgen response of female birds (the difference from baseline to maximum testosterone), which in males is strongly related to mating system. We could not confirm a relationship between male-to-female testosterone, maximum female testosterone, or the seasonal androgen response of females with any life-history parameter. We conclude that the expectation that testosterone regulates traits in females in a similar manner as in males should be reconsidered. This expectation may be partially due to hormone manipulation studies using pharmacological doses of testosterone that had similar effects in females than in males but may be of limited importance for the physiological range of testosterone concentrations occurring within ecological and evolutionary contexts. Thus, the assumption that circulating testosterone should covary with ecologically relevant secondary sexual traits in females may be misleading: selection pressures on females differ from those on males and females may regulate behavior differently. © 2014 The Author.

Goymann W.,Max Planck Institute For Ornithologie
Methods in Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2012

1. Methods to measure metabolites of steroid hormones from faeces have become very popular in wildlife conservation and ecology, because they allow gathering physiological data without the necessity to capture the animals. However, this advantage comes at costs that are particularly relevant when studying free-living animals in their natural environments. Previous methodological reviews have stressed the importance of validations to prove that real metabolites of the hormone in question are measured, but the research community has largely ignored further caveats relating to sex, diet, metabolic rate and individual differences in hormone metabolite formation. 2. Often the sexes differ in how they metabolize hormones. As a consequence, one may not be able to compare hormone metabolite concentrations between males and females of one species. 3. Diet can alter the way hormones are metabolized, and different diets can change the amount of faecal bulk. Both phenomena can result in measurement artefacts that may seriously distort the estimation of hormone metabolite concentrations. As a consequence, comparisons of hormone metabolite concentrations, for example, between seasons or populations, may become problematic. 4. Changes in ambient temperature and food availability may trigger large fluctuations in metabolic rate of free-living animals. These fluctuations may then result in major distortions of faecal hormone metabolite concentrations without any change in bioactive hormone levels. 5. Bacteria metabolize hormones in the gut. Individual differences in bacterial composition can cause differences in how hormones are decomposed. Thus, individuals may differ with regard to what kind of hormone metabolites they form and with regard to the relative composition of these hormone metabolites. As only specific metabolites are measured, differences in metabolismmay distort the results. 6. In summary, non-invasive hormone research measures various end products of a hormone after its clearance from the circulation and extensive modification by bacteria. Not only does this increase random variance, it may also generate systematic noise, which may seriously distort the signal (i.e. the hormonal status of the individual) in a non-random manner. Thus, we still need to learn much more about whether this widely used technique reliably measures the physiological status of animals in uncontrolled environments. © 2012 The Authors. Methods in Ecology and Evolution © 2012 British Ecological Society.

Creel S.,Montana State University | Dantzer B.,Michigan State University | Goymann W.,Max Planck Institute For Ornithologie | Rubenstein D.R.,Columbia University
Functional Ecology | Year: 2013

Many aspects of the social environment affect hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function and increase circulating glucocorticoid concentrations. In this review, we examine the relationships between the social environment and the function of the HPA axis in vertebrates. First, we explore the effects of the social environment on glucocorticoid secretion in territorial (primarily non-social) species, with an emphasis on the effects of variation in population density, as modified by environmental factors such as predation risk and food availability. In general, high population density or frequent territorial intrusions are associated with increased glucocorticoid secretion in a wide range of taxa, including mammals, birds, fish and reptiles, although there is considerable variability across species. Second, we consider the effects of social interactions and dominance rank on glucocorticoid secretion in social species, mostly in birds and mammals. We review studies that have detected an association between social status and glucocorticoid levels - sometimes with higher glucocorticoid levels in low-ranking individuals, and sometimes with higher glucocorticoid levels in dominant individuals. The relationship between dominance and glucocorticoid levels varies among species, populations and years, in a manner that depends on the stability of the social hierarchy, environmental conditions, the type of breeding system, and the manner in which high rank is obtained and maintained. Finally, we discuss the concept of allostasis and consider interactions between social effects and other environmental factors, noting that there is relatively little research on these interactions to date. For both non-social and social species, we identify priorities of future research. These priorities include more complete descriptions of HPA function that move beyond measurements of basal glucocorticoid concentrations (which will generally require field experiments), to studies that examine organizational effects of social stressors, that directly test the relationship between HPA function and fitness, and that examine how glucocorticoid responses affect population dynamics. Although several lines of evidence suggest that glucocorticoid responses can affect the fitness of individuals and therefore can alter the dynamics of populations, the effect of glucocorticoid responses on population dynamics remains essentially unstudied. © 2012 The Authors. Functional Ecology © 2012 British Ecological Society.

DuVal E.H.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen) | Goymann W.,Max Planck Institute For Ornithologie
Hormones and Behavior | Year: 2011

Though cooperative behavior has long been a focus of evolutionary biology, the proximate hormonal mechanisms underlying cooperative interactions remain poorly understood. Lance-tailed manakins (Chiroxiphia lanceolata) are tropical passerines that form long-term male-male partnerships and cooperate in paired male courtship displays. To elucidate patterns of natural hormonal variation in relation to cooperation and reproductive behavior, we examined circulating androgen levels of male lance-tailed manakins in relation to social status, display behavior, and time of year. We found significantly higher circulating androgen levels in alpha-ranked (breeding) males compared to non-alpha adult males in the population. Beta males, which participated in courtship displays but did not copulate, had androgen levels indistinguishable from those of unpaired adult males that never displayed for females, suggesting that an elevated concentration of plasma testosterone in tropical lekking birds may be associated primarily with copulatory behavior or other status-specific traits, and not the performance of courtship display. Androgens decreased throughout the breeding season for males of all status categories. Interestingly, alphas that displayed for females in the observation session prior to sampling had lower androgen levels than alphas that did not display for females. This pattern may result from female discrimination against alpha males at display areas with high levels of social conflict among males, as social disruption is linked to elevated testosterone in many species. However, recent change of a display partner was not related to alpha androgen levels. We discuss alternative explanations and the possible implications of these results, and generate several testable predictions for future investigations. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

Fusani L.,University of Ferrara | Cardinale M.,Institute for Marine Research | Schwabl I.,Max Planck Institute For Ornithologie | Goymann W.,Max Planck Institute For Ornithologie
Hormones and Behavior | Year: 2011

A large number of passerine species migrate at night, although most of them are diurnal outside the migratory seasons. This diurnal-to-nocturnal transition is a major life-history event, yet little is known about its physiological control. Previous work showed that during the migratory periods captive birds showing nocturnal migratory restlessness (Zugunruhe) have reduced concentrations of circulating melatonin at night compared to non-migratory periods. This suggested that the hormone melatonin, a main component of the avian circadian system, is involved in the expression of Zugunruhe. Other studies demonstrated that the relationship between low melatonin levels and Zugunruhe is not a seasonal correlation. When Zugunruhe was interrupted by exposing birds to a fasting-and-refeeding protocol, melatonin levels increased. Here we studied whether melatonin and food availability influence the intensity of Zugunruhe in wild migrating garden warblers (Sylvia borin) at a stopover site. Birds were held in recording cages overnight, with or without food available, and either bled to determine melatonin concentrations or treated transdermally with melatonin. We found that melatonin levels at night were correlated with the intensity of diurnal locomotor activity and with condition, but were not correlated with Zugunruhe. Similarly, the melatonin treatment did not have effects on Zugunruhe, whereas food availability increased it. Our study shows that the nocturnal melatonin levels in migrating warblers depend on food availability and are correlated with condition. In addition, it suggests that melatonin does not control Zugunruhe and might rather be involved in energy conservation and/or clock synchronization during migration. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

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