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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2013 Jun 15;187:15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2013.02.045. Epub 2013 Mar 16.

Yolk concentrations of hormones and glucose and egg weight and egg dimensions in unincubated chicken eggs, in relation to egg sex and hen body weight.

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Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen UR Livestock Research, PO Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands.


Birds can manipulate offspring sex ratio under natural and experimental conditions and maternal hormones have been shown to be involved in this process. Studies also provided evidence for the presence of sex specific concentrations of yolk hormones in avian eggs. These findings led to the suggestion that yolk hormones could influence genetic sex determination in birds. However, in previous studies, yolk hormone concentrations and egg sex were studied in incubated eggs, although incubation of the eggs and embryonic development can alter yolk hormone concentrations and measured sex ratio. This study is the first to determine a wide array of egg components and hen body weight in relation to the sex of the egg in unincubated eggs. Egg parameters studied were yolk concentrations of testosterone, estradiol, androstenedione, progesterone, dihydrotestosterone, and glucose, and egg weight and dimensions. In addition, we studied the associations among all measured parameters. Associations were found between a number of yolk hormones (progesterone associated with testosterone, estradiol and androstenedione; androstenedione with testosterone; dihydrotestosterone with estradiol and androstenedione) as well as between yolk testosterone and egg length and egg weight. There were no significant overall differences between male and female chicken eggs in any of the measured egg parameters. However, there were a few interactions such as the interaction of egg sex with dihydrotestosterone and with hen body weight which predicted estradiol levels and an interaction of estradiol levels with egg width for predicting sex of egg. Their biological relevance need, however, further study.

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