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

te-browed sparrow weavers (Plocepasser mahali). These birds live in groups of two to ten individuals and are characterized by a status-dependent song, where only the dominant male sings a so-called "solo song", whereas females and subordinate males sing an alternating duet song. In a long-term study of sparrow weaver colonies in Southwestern Zimbabwe, the researchers found a relationship between hormone levels and solo song in males. Dominant males had higher testosterone values than subordinate birds, both in the early breeding season from October until December and in the late breeding season from January until March.

However, these hormone concentrations were much lower compared to those responsible for song changes in temperate zone species. It could well be that the slightly higher values of dominant males only reflect the hierarchical status itself and are not responsible for the activation of solo song. That testosterone indeed plays a role in solo singing could be proved in an experiment in females that were kept in aviaries next to their natural habitat. These females received a testosterone implant. Within a week they started to sing the male-typical solo song that was fully developed after one month and differed only in a few features from male song. "With this study, we could show that a special type of song, the solo song, can be activated by testosterone in both sexes. Moreover, females remain receptive for the male hormone testosterone", says Cornelia Voigt.


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Contact: Stefan Leitner
leitner@orn.mpg.de
49-815-793-2389
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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