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Horm Behav. 2013 Aug;64(3):487-93. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.08.004. Epub 2013 Aug 17.

Effect of rapid modulation of circulating plasma testosterone concentration on begging, aggressive behavior and competition for food in black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus) chicks.

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Behavioural Biology, University of Groningen, Centre for Behaviour and Neuroscience, Nijenborgh 7, 9747AG, Groningen The Netherlands; Dipartimento di Bioscienze, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Celoria 26, I-20133 Milano, Italy. Electronic address:


Sibling competition mediated by begging behavior is extremely common in avian species and recent studies have highlighted the role of endogenous testosterone in regulating such phenomenon. However, current literature depicts an inconsistent pattern in altricial vs. semi-precocial species, with stimulating versus inhibitory effects of the hormone respectively. This is possibly due to a difference in the methodology of hormone treatment (short-term moderate dose versus a long-term stronger elevation, respectively) between the studies performed so far. In this study, we induced short-term moderate peaks in plasma testosterone levels, as applied in altricial bird species, and assessed the effects of our manipulation on begging, competitive and aggressive behavior in black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus) chicks, a semi-precocial species. Our results suggest that, unlike in altricial songbirds, temporary increase of plasma testosterone concentration suppresses begging and enhances aggressiveness towards intruders. However, it also increases aggression and the chances of getting priority while scrambling with nest mates to gain access to food. Thus, the inconsistencies in the hormonal control of begging behavior observed between altricial vs. semi-precocial birds seem real and perhaps related to species differences in complexity of the display and the nature of competition. These may be elucidated by future comparative studies.


Aggressive behavior; Androgens; Begging behavior; Sibling competition; Testosterone

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