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Horm Behav. 2006 Dec;50(5):772-8. Epub 2006 Aug 17.

Sex steroids modulate changes in social and sexual preference during juvenile development in zebra finches.

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Department of Psychology and Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.


Zebra finches, like many other animals, have close social relationships mainly with the family at young ages but begin to express interest in opposite-sex extra-family animals as they enter the late juvenile period and sexual maturity. This experiment tested a set of hypotheses that sex steroids are involved in this developmental transition. At 25-30 days, subjects were implanted subcutaneously with Silastic tubes that were empty (controls), filled with testosterone propionate, filled with estradiol benzoate, or filled with a combination of ATD (an aromatization inhibitor) and flutamide (an anti-androgen). Once a week between ages 30 and 90 days, they were given three-choice tests where the three stimulus types were the family members, unpaired males, or unpaired females. The preferred category was defined as the one adjacent to the proximity zone in which the subject spent the most time. Control males were more likely to prefer females and less likely to prefer the family as they got older, and control females were increasingly likely to prefer males. Males treated with testosterone or estradiol showed a premature increase in preferences for females. Females treated with ATD plus flutamide failed to show the normal increase in preferences for males shown by controls. These results indicate an involvement of sex steroids in the maturation of sexual preferences in a socially monogamous species that relies on visual and auditory, rather than olfactory, cues for sexual or other social behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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