Experimental evidence of a testosterone-induced shift from paternal to mating behaviour in a facultatively polygynous songbird
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- De Ridder, E., Pinxten, R. & Eens, M. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2000) 49: 24. doi:10.1007/s002650000266
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Previous studies have suggested that testosterone (T) profiles of male birds reflect a trade-off between mate attraction behaviours (requiring high T levels) and parental care activities (requiring low T levels). In this study, we experimentally elevated T levels of monogamous males in the facultatively polygynous European starling (Sturnus vulgaris), and compared mate attraction and paternal behaviour of T-treated males with those of controls (C-males). T-males significantly reduced their participation in incubation and fed nestlings significantly less often than C-males. Females paired to T-treated males did not compensate for their mate’s lower paternal effort. The observed reduction in a male’s investment in incubating the eggs was accompanied by an increased investment in typical female-attracting behaviours: T-males spent a significantly higher proportion of their time singing to attract additional females. They also occupied more additional nestboxes than C-males, although the differences just failed to be significant, and carried significantly more green nesting materials into an additional nestbox (a behaviour previously shown to serve a courtship function). T-males also behaved significantly more aggressively than C-males. During the nestling period, the frequency of mate-attracting behaviours by T-treated and control males no longer differed significantly. Despite the reduced paternal effort by T-males and the lack of compensation behaviour by females, hatching and breeding success did not differ significantly between T- and C-pairs.