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Horm Behav. 2011 Jan;59(1):75-82. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2010.10.013. Epub 2010 Oct 26.

Effects of egg testosterone on female mate choice and male sexual behavior in the pheasant.

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Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Celoria 26, I-20133 Milan, Italy.


Evidence is accumulating that sex steroids in the eggs, besides affecting progeny phenotype and behavior in the short term, also have enduring effects until adulthood, when they may translate into differences in reproductive strategies and success. Maternal steroids transfer may therefore affect both agonistic behavior and mate choice decisions, either through the promotion of body size and condition or through a priming effect on the neuroendocrine system. However, owing to the prevalence of a short-term perspective, relevance of maternal transfer of sex steroids to sexual selection processes has been seldom studied. Here we investigate the effects of an experimental increase in egg testosterone on male dominance and copulation success in the ring-necked pheasant, Phasianus colchicus, a polygynous galliform with multiple male ornamental traits, in captivity. We found that females from testosterone (T) injected eggs copulated less than control females. Males from T-injected eggs obtained more copulations than control males, specifically with control females. The effect of male 'ordinary' and secondary sexual traits on either dominance or copulation frequency did not depend on early exposure to T, nor did T treatment affect male dominance. Present results demonstrate that variation in the early hormonal environment set up by mothers affects sexual behavior of the offspring, which might translate into fitness differences.

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