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PLoS One. 2008 Aug 27;3(8):e3073. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003073.

Bi-directional sexual dimorphisms of the song control nucleus HVC in a songbird with unison song.

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Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany.


Sexually dimorphic anatomy of brain areas is thought to be causally linked to sex differences in behaviour and cognitive functions. The sex with the regional size advantage (male or female) differs between brain areas and species. Among adult songbirds, males have larger brain areas such as the HVC (proper name) and RA (robust nucleus of the arcopallium) that control the production of learned songs. Forest weavers (Ploceus bicolor) mated pairs sing a unison duet in which male and female mates learn to produce identical songs. We show with histological techniques that the volume and neuron numbers of HVC and RA were > or =1.5 times larger in males than in females despite their identical songs. In contrast, using in-situ hybridizations, females have much higher (30-70%) expression levels of mRNA of a number of synapse-related proteins in HVC and/or RA than their male counterparts. Male-typical and female-typical sexual differentiation appears to act on different aspects of the phenotypes within the same brain areas, leading females and males to produce the same behaviour using different cellular mechanisms.

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