Plasma testosterone correlates with morph type across breeding substages in male white-throated Sparrows

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology : PBZ
M B Swett, C W Breuner


White-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) exhibit a genetic polymorphism that affects plumage and behavior in both sexes. White-striped morphs are more territorially aggressive, whereas tan-striped morphs provision nestlings at a higher rate. We investigated testosterone physiology in this species in an effort to understand hormonal mechanisms for the observed differences in aggression and parental care between the morphs. We found a small but significant difference in plasma testosterone between free-living white-striped and tan-striped males over the course of the breeding season. This difference correlates with previously observed differences in aggressive behavior and suggests that testosterone may mediate these differences. Testosterone remained higher in white-striped males relative to tan-striped males when males were provisioning nestlings and fledglings. Thus, testosterone may also contribute to the relatively reduced levels of parental care exhibited by white-striped males. In contrast to males, plasma testosterone did not differ between free-living white-striped and tan-striped females, which suggests that testosterone does not mediate differences in aggression between female morphs. Injection with gonadotropi...Continue Reading


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