Increased exposure to yolk testosterone has feminizing effects in chickens, Gallus gallus domesticus

B. Riedstra*, K. A. Pfannkuche, T. G. G. Groothuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
891 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Competing for food by altricial and semiprecocial bird nestlings is a behaviour well known for its sensitivity to maternal androgens during prenatal development. Whether a similar effect is present in precocial species that do not beg is less well known. We therefore increased yolk testosterone levels within the physiological range at the onset of incubation to study its effects on food competition behaviour in the domestic chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus. We found an increase in competitiveness in testosterone-treated male domestic chicks, raising their level to that of the females. This is in line with the decrease in circulating plasma levels of males in the direction of the levels in females, and the overall decrease in androgen receptor densities after prenatal treatment as found previously. Hormones are known to have long-lasting organizing effects on behaviour and to affect sexual differentiation in vertebrates. Although research into hormone-mediated maternal effects has been productive, only a few studies describe (the ambiguous) effects into adulthood. Therefore we followed our animals into adulthood and recorded androgen-dependent social behaviour and secondary sexual characteristics, body mass and circulating plasma testosterone levels and checked whether these variables were treatment dependent. Treatment had a near significant effect on comb colour (both brightness and chroma). Again treatment caused a shift towards a more female-like phenotype. This suggests that, in contrast to earlier suggestions, maternal androgens may interact with (but not disrupt) sexual differentiation of brain and behaviour and the development of secondary sexual characteristics. (C) 2013 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-708
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behavior
Volume85
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2013

Keywords

  • behavioural lateralization
  • comb colour
  • domestic chicken
  • Gallus gallus domesticus
  • long-term effect
  • maternal testosterone
  • prenatal testosterone exposure
  • rank order
  • short-term effect
  • testosterone level
  • RED JUNGLE FOWL
  • BLACK-HEADED GULL
  • MATERNAL TESTOSTERONE
  • ANDROGEN LEVELS
  • SOCIAL-STATUS
  • OFFSPRING PHENOTYPE
  • ULTRAVIOLET PLUMAGE
  • AGONISTIC BEHAVIOR
  • BEGGING BEHAVIOR
  • POSTNATAL-GROWTH

Cite this