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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. May 28, 1996; 93(11): 5264–5268.

Functional testicular tissue does not masculinize development of the zebra finch song system.


Current theories of sexual differentiation maintain that ovarian estrogen prevents masculine development of the copulatory system in birds, whereas estrogen derived from testicular androgens promotes masculine sexual differentiation of neuroanatomy and sexual behavior in mammals. Paradoxically, some data suggest that the neural song system in zebra finches follows the mammalian pattern with estrogenic metabolites of testicular secretions causing masculine development. To test whether the removal of estrogen from males during early development would prevent the development of masculine song systems, zebra finches were treated embryonically with an inhibitor of estrogen synthesis. In addition, this treatment in genetic female zebra finches induced both functional ovarian and testicular tissue to develop, thus allowing the assessment of the direct effects of testicular secretions on song system development. In males, the inhibition of estrogen synthesis before hatching had a small but significant effect in demasculinizing one aspect of the neural song system. In treated females, the song systems remained morphologically feminine. These results suggest that masculinization of the song system is not determined solely by testicular androgens or their estrogenic metabolites.

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Selected References

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