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Hormones dictate breeding success in birds
Date:1/26/2011

tive success. These birds often differ significantly in terms of the number of clutches they produce, the number of eggs they lay over the course of a breeding season and how many of their young become fully fledged. Because house sparrows are faithful to their habitats, very specific studies can be carried out on individual birds over an extended period.

The scientists counted the number of eggs, clutches and fledglings for each breeding pair. They also took regular blood samples three weeks before the beginning of breeding and during the rearing of the first clutch, both in natural situations and under artificially generated stress, to determine the corresponding concentrations of the hormones corticosterone and prolactin in the birds' blood. "We were surprised that we could predict how many offspring a breeding pair would have based on hormone levels three weeks before the breeding season," reports Jenny Ouyang. "Sparrows that had low corticosterone values before the breeding season raised the most offspring. Especially birds with low values before, but high values during the season had the highest reproductive success. They apparently invested a lot of energy in the brood." In contrast, the animals that had a very strong hormonal reaction to stress fed their young less and produced fewer offspring.

According to the scientists, prolactin plays a crucial role in the timing of laying the first egg: females with higher prolactin levels started laying earlier and had more offspring as a result. "The fact that the two parents have very similar hormonal values is also fascinating for us," adds Jenny Ouyang. "It is not yet clear whether the couples influence each other's hormonal status or whether they select partners with similar hormone levels."

The results of this study enhance knowledge about the physiological mechanisms that can dictate when a bird breeds, how many eggs it produces per clutch and how often it breeds. The hormones prolact
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Contact: Jenny Ouyang
jqouyang@gmail.com
805-703-01712
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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Hormones dictate breeding success in birds
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