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Testosterone and Avian Life Histories: Effects of Experimentally Elevated Testosterone on Behavior and Correlates of Fitness in the Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

Ellen D. Ketterson, Val Nolan Jr., Licia Wolf and Charles Ziegenfus
The American Naturalist
Vol. 140, No. 6 (Dec., 1992), pp. 980-999
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2462929
Page Count: 20
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Testosterone and Avian Life Histories: Effects of Experimentally Elevated Testosterone on Behavior and Correlates of Fitness in the Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
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Abstract

Hormones influence many aspects of organismal behavior, physiology, and morphology, and thus hormones may lie at the root of many life-history trade-offs. By manipulating hormones we can create novel phenotypes (i.e., perform phenotypic engineering) and attempt to relate phenotypic variation to fitness. We report the effect of testosterone treatment on parental behavior and vocal behavior of adult male dark-eyed juncos. Testosterone partially suppressed paternal behavior and increased the frequency of song. When we compared treated males and controls for nine potential correlates of fitness (offspring growth and survival to the age of 10 d, condition of females, length of the interval between consecutive nestings, size of subsequent clutches and broods, mate retention within and between breeding seasons, and survival rate), we found no statistical differences. In some measures treated males outperformed controls, but in most the reverse was true. The power of some of our tests was not great enough to detect small differences. At this stage of our investigation, three interpretations of our results seem almost equally probable: (1) a broad range of behavioral phenotypes is selectively neutral in the junco, (2) male parental behavior is beneficial to males only in some years or habitats, or (3) we have yet to measure the correlates of fitness that are most strongly affected by the behavioral changes induced by elevated testosterone.

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