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Testosterone regulates solo song of tropical birds
Date:10/31/2012

This press release is available in German.

In male songbirds of the temperate zone, the concentration of sex hormones is rising in spring, which leads to an increase in song activity during the breeding season. In the tropics, there has been little evidence so far about such a clear relationship between hormonal action and behaviour, which is partly due to a lower degree of seasonal changes of the environment. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen have now discovered that in duetting African white-browed sparrow weavers, the solo song of dominant males is linked to elevated levels of testosterone. What is more, the male-typical solo song could be activated via testosterone treatment in female birds. The study thus shows a complex relationship between song behaviour and hormone concentration also in a tropical bird species.

In species of the temperate zone, circannual rhythms are triggered by seasonal fluctuations in day length. The longer days in spring are accompanied by an increase of steroid hormone levels that lead to the onset of breeding activities. Consequently, there are changes in behaviour and at least in male songbirds, there is a relationship between the incidence and complexity of songs and circulating testosterone concentrations. In the tropics, however, the situation is different. Birds often vocalise year-round, and there are suitable conditions for breeding during a more extended period compared to the temperate zone. In addition, in many species testosterone concentrations are at a low level throughout the year. The underlying mechanism responsible for the song changes of tropical birds therefore remains elusive.

Cornelia Voigt and Stefan Leitner from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology now showed that testosterone plays a crucial role in the regulation of song behaviour in African whi
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Contact: Stefan Leitner
leitner@orn.mpg.de
49-815-793-2389
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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