Send to

Choose Destination
Horm Behav. 2008 Aug;54(3):396-402. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.04.012. Epub 2008 May 10.

Habituation to humans affects yolk steroid levels and offspring phenotype in quail.

Author information

Konrad-Lorenz-Forschungsstelle, University of Vienna, A-4645 Grünau, Austria.


In the field as well as in the laboratory, human-generated stress responses are reduced in adult animals previously habituated to humans in comparison to non-habituated individuals. In birds, yolk steroid levels vary with maternal environment and condition. We tested the hypothesis that the experience of female birds with humans could affect yolk steroids levels and offspring phenotype. Two groups of Japanese quail, one habituated to humans (H) and a second non-habituated (NH), were exposed daily to brief human disturbances. We analysed egg quality, offspring growth, and offspring emotional reactivity. NH females produced eggs with less androgens (testosterone and androstenedione) and more immunoreactive progesterone compared to birds habituated to humans. NH females produced eggs with less yolk, heavier shell and chicks hatching later and being smaller as compared to habituated individuals. A lower emotional reactivity was found in young of NH females compared to young of H females. Thus, human disturbance of the mother triggered different effects on chick phenotype depending on previous experience of mother birds with humans. In addition, we describe for the first time the influence of environmental stimuli on yolk immunoreactive progesterone levels. Our results show that a relatively minor difference in behavioral habituation may have substantial effects on eggs and offspring. This has obvious implications for keeping and handling laboratory animals, for conservation biology and for animal welfare.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center