, Volume 63, Issue 6, pp 809-816
Date: 06 Feb 2009

Long-lasting consequences of elevated yolk testosterone levels on female reproduction

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Maternal yolk androgens in bird eggs represent an important pathway along which offspring phenotype is shaped. Most of the hormone-mediated maternal effects are highly important in the context of sibling competition. However, there is also increasing evidence for long-lasting effects far beyond the nestling period, and these effects may have important consequences on the reproductive success of the offspring. Here, we investigated the effects of experimentally elevated yolk testosterone concentrations on growth and reproduction in female canaries. Elevated yolk testosterone concentrations enhanced the post-natal growth rate, but not the asymptotic mass, and reduced the survival probability. The latter may be a consequence of the higher growth rate, which may have rendered females hatching from testosterone-treated eggs (T-females) more vulnerable to harsh environmental conditions. Adult T-females made a larger investment in their clutch by laying more but not heavier eggs than females hatching from control-treated eggs. Our results suggest that the observed long-lasting effect on clutch size relates to changes in the growth trajectory rather than being a direct consequence of testosterone, since studies manipulating early growth conditions obtained similar results. Clearly, further studies are now required in order to investigate the intriguing relationship between yolk testosterone, elevated growth rates, and clutch size.

Communicated by J. Graves