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Horm Behav. 2001 Aug;40(1):1-13.

Patterns of testosterone and prolactin concentrations and reproductive behavior of helpers and breeders in the cooperatively breeding red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis).

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Department of Biology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0406, USA.


We examined the proximate causes of delayed breeding and alloparental behavior in the cooperatively breeding red-cockaded woodpecker by measuring plasma concentrations of testosterone (T) and prolactin (PRL) in female breeders, male breeders, and male helpers during different stages of the reproductive cycle. Male breeders and helpers have low T during the prebreeding period, highest T during copulation, and low concentrations of T during the egg-laying/incubation and nestling provisioning stages. Helpers appear physiologically capable of reproducing; their T concentrations equal that of male breeders. Helpers unrelated to the breeding female have higher T than helpers sharing a territory with their mother. Sexual inactivity by male helpers might be explained by behavioral suppression resulting from interactions of male helpers with the breeding pair that somehow differ in accordance with the helper's relatedness to the breeding female (e.g., female breeders are generally unreceptive to courtship from male helpers and least receptive to related helpers). Female breeder, male breeder, and male helper PRL levels did not differ and increased from the prebreeding stage through the copulation and egg-laying/incubation stages. During the nestling provisioning stage, male breeder and helper PRL declined, while female PRL continued to increase. Based on these results, we conclude that the physiological bases of alloparental behavior have not diverged from those that mediate parental behavior in this species.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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