Long-lasting effects of yolk androgens on phenotype in the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)
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- Ruuskanen, S., Lehikoinen, E., Nikinmaa, M. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2013) 67: 361. doi:10.1007/s00265-012-1456-7
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The hormonal environment during early development, such as maternally derived androgens in bird eggs, shapes the development of the offspring in ways that may have important long-term consequences for phenotype and behavior and, ultimately, fitness. We studied the long-term effects of yolk androgens on several phenotypic and physiological traits in male and female pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) by experimentally elevating yolk androgen levels and rearing birds in common-garden environment in captivity. We found that high yolk androgen levels increased the basal metabolic rates in both females and males in adulthood. High yolk androgen levels did not affect male melanin coloration or plumage ornaments, or timing or speed of moult in either sex. No effect of androgen treatment on cell-mediated or humoral immune response was found in either sex. Covariation among the measured phenotypic traits was further not altered by androgen treatment. Our results suggest that exposure to high androgen levels can have long-lasting effects on some offspring traits, but do not seem to lead to different phenotypes. Furthermore, the role of yolk androgens affecting sexually selected male traits in our study species seems to be minor. The fitness consequences of yolk androgen-induced higher metabolic rates remain to be studied.