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Horm Behav. 2005 Apr;47(4):389-409.

Testosterone, testes size, and mating success in birds: a comparative study.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium. laszlo.garamszegi@ua.ac.be

Abstract

Reproductive behaviors of vertebrates are often underpinned by temporal patterns of hormone secretion. We investigated interspecific patterns of circulating testosterone in male birds to test the hypothesis that testosterone plays a crucial role in sexual selection as determined by degree of polygyny and extra-pair paternity. We predicted that the evolution of increased levels of polygyny and extra-pair paternity would have resulted in the evolution of increased levels of testosterone to allow males more efficiently to compete for mates. This hypothesis was tested in comparative analyses of 116 species of birds using Generalized Least Squares Models. We assessed the importance of latitudinal distribution, because this can confound the relationship between testosterone and mating success. There were weak positive phylogenetic correlations between measures of testosterone and estimates of mating success at the social level, but this association appeared to be confounded by latitudinal distribution, a significant correlate of testosterone titers. However, we found a significantly positive relationship between peak and residual peak testosterone (which is the peak testosterone level that is controlled for the baseline level) and extra-pair paternity independent of latitude. These results suggest that selection pressures arising from social and sexual mating differently affected testosterone levels with the former being mediated by factors associated with latitudinal distribution. An analysis of residual testes size revealed a positive association between peak and residual testosterone and testes size relative to body size. In a path analysis, we show that relative testis size primarily evolved in association with intense sperm competition and thus high sperm production, and these mechanisms had a secondary impact on blood testosterone levels at a phylogenetic scale. Our results suggest that sperm competition has played an important role in the evolution of reproductive mechanisms in birds.

PMID:
15777805
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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