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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2015 Dec 1;224:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2015.05.005. Epub 2015 May 16.

Advanced seasonal reproductive development in a male urban bird is reflected in earlier plasma luteinizing hormone rise but not energetic status.

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School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA; Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA(1). Electronic address:
School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.
School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA; School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Heydon-Laurence Bldg AO8, Science Rd., Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia(1).
The Roslin Institute, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG, Scotland, UK.


Urban animals inhabit an environment considerably different than do their non-urban conspecifics, and to persist urban animals must adjust to these novel environments. The timing of seasonal reproductive development (i.e., growth of gonads and secondary sex organs) is a fundamental determinant of the breeding period and is frequently advanced in urban bird populations. However, the underlying mechanism(s) by which birds adjust the timing of reproductive development to urban areas remain(s) largely unknown. Here, we compared the timing of vernal reproductive development in free-ranging urban and non-urban male Abert's Towhees, Melozone aberti, in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, and tested the non-mutually exclusive hypotheses that earlier reproductive development is due to improved energetic status and/or earlier increase in endocrine activity of the reproductive system. We found that urban birds initiated testicular development earlier than non-urban birds, but this disparity was not associated with differences in body condition, fat stores, or innate immune performance. These results provide no support for the hypothesis that energetic constraints are responsible for delayed reproductive development of non-urban relative to urban male Abert's Towhees. Urban birds did, however, increase their plasma luteinizing hormone, but not plasma testosterone, earlier than non-urban birds. These findings suggest that adjustment to urban areas by Abert's Towhees involves increases in the endocrine activity of the anterior pituitary gland and/or hypothalamus earlier than non-urban towhees.


Energetic status; Innate immunity; Luteinizing hormone; Reproductive development; Testosterone; Urbanization

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