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The "Challenge Hypothesis": Theoretical Implications for Patterns of Testosterone Secretion, Mating Systems, and Breeding Strategies

John C. Wingfield, Robert E. Hegner, Alfred M. Dufty, Jr. and Gregory F. Ball
The American Naturalist
Vol. 136, No. 6 (Dec., 1990), pp. 829-846
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2462170
Page Count: 18
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The "Challenge Hypothesis": Theoretical Implications for Patterns of Testosterone Secretion, Mating Systems, and Breeding Strategies
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Abstract

A combination of field and laboratory investigations has revealed that the temporal patterns of testosterone (T) levels in blood can vary markedly among populations and individuals, and even within individuals from one year to the next. Although T is known to regulate reproductive behavior (both sexual and aggressive) and thus could be expected to correlate with mating systems, it is clear that the absolute levels of T in blood are not always indicative of reproductive state. Rather, the pattern and amplitude of change in T levels are far more useful in making predictions about the hormonal basis of mating systems and breeding strategies. In these contexts we present a model that compares the amplitude of change in T level with the degree of parental care shown by individual males. On the basis of data collected from male birds breeding in natural or captive conditions, polygynous males appear less responsive to social environmental cues than are monogamous males. This model indicates that there may be widely different hormonal responses to male-male and male-female interactions and presumably equally plastic neural mechanisms for the transduction of these signals into endocrine secretions. Furthermore, evidence from other vertebrate taxa suggests strongly that the model is applicable to other classes

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