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Integr Comp Biol. 2003 Nov;43(5):658-68. doi: 10.1093/icb/43.5.658.

Endocrine mediation of vertebrate male alternative reproductive tactics: the next generation of studies.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019-6121.


In many species of animals, males may achieve reproductive success via one of several alternative reproductive tactics. Over the past decade or so, there has been a concerted effort to investigate endocrine mechanisms that underlie such discrete behavioral (and often morphological) variation. In vertebrates, the first generation of studies focused on potential organizational or activational effects of steroid hormones (Moore, 1991; Moore et al., 1998). Some of these studies have made it clear that, in addition to circulating hormone levels, one must also consider other aspects of the endocrine system, including hormone receptors, binding globulins and potential interactions among endocrine axes. In this paper, I review recent work on endocrine mechanisms and suggest possibilities for future investigation. I highlight how individual variation in sensitivity to environmental conditions, particularly with respect to various stressors, may account for the existence of alternative male reproductive phenotypes. Along these lines, I briefly explain the logic behind our work with male phenotypes of longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis) that is aimed at determining the tissue-specific distribution and activity of two enzymes that are common to androgen and glucocorticoid metabolism. A major goal of our work is to examine the potential role of steroidogenic enzymes in the transduction of environmental information to influence the expression of alternative male reproductive phenotypes.

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