Individual variation in plasma testosterone levels and its relation to badge size in House Sparrows Passer domesticus: It's a night-and-day difference

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Abstract

The steroid hormone testosterone (T) plays a central role in the regulation of reproduction in animals. Although seasonal variation in T levels is well-studied, differences between day and night have only been described in relatively few species, and daily within-individual variation has been largely neglected when evaluating the relationship between T and the expression of sexual ornaments or behavior. We measured plasma T levels during day and night in a captive population of House Sparrows, and analyzed their relationship with an important male ornament - badge size. T levels were on average twice as high at night than during daytime. This was true in all seasons, and in both males and females. Disturbance of the birds at night, but not during the day, led to significantly lower T levels, suggesting a rapid drop after an individual wakes up. The relationship between T levels and badge size depended on the time when T was measured. During the breeding season, badge size was strongly positively correlated with night-time, but not with daytime T levels. This suggests that badge size signals information related to an individual's maximum potential T level such as social dominance. Our study highlights that integrative research on the endocrine control of ornament expression needs to take diel variation in hormone levels into account. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

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Laucht, S., Dale, J., Mutzel, A., & Kempenaers, B. (2011). Individual variation in plasma testosterone levels and its relation to badge size in House Sparrows Passer domesticus: It’s a night-and-day difference. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 170(3), 501–508. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2010.11.007

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