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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2010 May-Jun;83(3):490-500. doi: 10.1086/651315.

Change in body mass can overrule the effects of maternal testosterone on primary offspring sex ratio of first eggs in homing pigeons.

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Behavioural Biology, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9751 NN Haren, The Netherlands.


The phenomenon of primary offspring sex ratio adjustment is being extensively studied, yet knowledge of the underlying proximate mechanism is still mainly hypothetical. Female birds are the heterogametic sex, thus potentially controlling the sex of the gamete to be fertilized. In several bird species, independent studies showed effects of maternal plasma testosterone, corticosterone, or condition on primary offspring sex ratio. Our objective was to investigate the causal relation between these two maternal hormones, body condition, and offspring sex ratio in homing pigeons (Columba livia domestica). Following our earlier study, we again implanted females with testosterone and determined embryo sex of first eggs. To identify the pathway of sex ratio adjustment, we repeatedly measured not only maternal plasma testosterone and mass but also plasma corticosterone, cholesterol, and glucose, all indicators of body condition. We also calculated the temporal change in these parameters, which has been proposed to be a more accurate predictor of offspring sex ratio compared with the absolute values. Furthermore, we analyzed testosterone concentrations in outer yolk layers, which potentially influence the first meiotic division of the gamete. We found no relation between plasma parameter and embryo sex of first eggs; testosterone treatment did not affect any of the measured parameters. However, females that increased in mass produced more male embryos, irrespective of treatment group. Outer yolk layer testosterone concentrations did not differ between treatment groups or between male and female eggs. We propose that not only the absolute values but also the complex interactions between maternal hormones and body condition ultimately affect the mechanism of primary offspring sex manipulation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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