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Horm Behav. 2008 Sep;54(4):571-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.05.017. Epub 2008 Jun 10.

Experimentally-elevated testosterone, female parental care, and reproductive success in a songbird, the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis).

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


In male dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), experimentally elevated testosterone (T) decreases male parental care and offspring survival, but results in higher overall fitness through greater mating success. To help address the ensuing question of what prevents selection from favoring higher levels of T in male juncos, we manipulated T in female juncos. A previous study demonstrated no effect of experimentally elevated T on female incubation behavior, suggesting that female parental behavior might be insensitive to T. In this study we asked whether experimentally elevated T mediates other female parental behaviors and whether variation in T-mediated parental behavior might influence reproductive success. We videotaped free-living control- and T-females during nesting to quantify brooding behavior when young were 3 days old and provisioning behavior when young were 6 days old. Nest defense was measured by quantifying responses to a mounted predator placed near the nest. Reproductive success was assessed via fecundity, nestling quality, and nest survival. T-females spent less time than control females brooding but did not differ in provisioning rate. T-females performed fewer dives at the predator mount and, unlike controls, failed to increase defense as nesting progressed. T-females also had lower daily nest survival and lower nest success (odds of producing at least one fledgling). We conclude that some aspects of female parental behavior are sensitive to experimentally elevated T while others are not and consider the implications for the evolution of T-mediated characters in both sexes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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