acta ethologica

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 9–18 | Cite as

Experimentally elevated testosterone increases status signalling in male Greylag geese (Anser anser)

  • Didone FrigerioEmail author
  • Katharina Hirschenhauser
  • Erich Möstl
  • John Dittami
  • Kurt Kotrschal
Original Article


Testosterone modulates male vertebrates’ sexual and social behaviour. We experimentally investigated the testosterone-sensitive behaviours in male greylag geese (Anser anser) by implanting silastic tubes containing crystalline testosterone during the mating season (February; 5 implanted and 5 control males) and in the early winter (November; 7 and 7). Focal animals were part of a semi-tame, unrestrained flock with fully intact social relationships. Excreted testosterone and corticosterone immunoreactive metabolites (TM, BM) were determined by enzyme immunoassay. Individual faecal samples and behavioural protocols were collected daily over a period of 5 weeks, including 1 control week before implantation. In February, no significant behavioural effects of the supplemental testosterone were observed, which may be due to the naturally occurring high systemic androgen levels in spring. In November, however, implanted males had higher TM excretion rates and performed status signalling behaviour (“beak up”) more frequently than control males. No differences between implanted and control males were found with respect to BM, agonistic interactions or vigilance behaviour. Furthermore, during the second week after implantation, TM positively correlated with the frequency of “beak up” of implanted males, whilst their female partners were attacked with lower latency by other members of the flock than the females of control males. Hence, status signalling in greylag ganders seems to be testosterone-sensitive year-long and “inappropriate” status signalling of males may draw attacks towards their females.


Anser anser Corticosterone Faeces Status signalling behaviour Testosterone implantation 



M. Strobach, C. Szedlarik and B. Weiss helped with catching the geese; J. Hemetsberger helped with catching and implanting. B. Wallner, A. Schöbitz and R. Hackl assisted with the EIA in the laboratory. J. Daisley and I. Scheiber commented on an early draft of the manuscript. Special thanks to J. Hemetsberger and B. Valoti for their assistance. The project was funded by FWF Projects 10483-BIO and 12914-BIO; University of Milan (Italy) provided a grant D.F. from 1995 until December 1997. Permanent support came from the “Verein der Förderer der Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle” and the “Herzog von Cumberland Stiftung”. The experiment complies with the current Austrian law.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag and ISPA 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Didone Frigerio
    • 1
    Email author
  • Katharina Hirschenhauser
    • 1
  • Erich Möstl
    • 2
  • John Dittami
    • 1
  • Kurt Kotrschal
    • 1
  1. 1.Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle für Ethologie and Department of ZoologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Institute for BiochemistryUniversity of Veterinary MedicineViennaAustria

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