Migratory stopover conditions affect the developmental state of male gonads in garden warblers (Sylvia borin)

  • Bauchinger U
  • Van't Hof T
  • Biebach H
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Long-distance migrants face the challenge of a short window for reproduction that requires optimal timing and full functional gonads. Male garden warblers (Sylvia borin) meet these demands by initiating testicular recrudescence during spring migration, enabling them to reproduce immediately after arrival at the breeding grounds. In a combined field and laboratory study, we investigated testicular size, plasma levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), androstenedione (AE), 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), testosterone and nocturnal migratory restlessness (Zugunruhe) under different stopover conditions. We manipulated food availability, the duration of stopover and simulated migration by food deprivation. Garden warblers showed significantly retarded testicular development after nine days of stopover under limited food conditions compared to birds that had ad libitum access to food. However, there was no significant difference in Zugunruhe between the two groups. Thus, the degree of Zugunruhe was unaffected by the quality of the stopover site and migration continued independent of the developmental state of the testis. We suggest that male garden warblers face the necessity to either compensate for slowed testicular recrudescence during the subsequent leg of migration and delay arrival at the breeding grounds, or arrive with less developed testes. Either of these may reduce annual reproductive success. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Annual reproductive success
  • Breeding
  • Migratory performance
  • Reproduction
  • Stopover quality
  • Testicular recrudescence
  • Vernal migration

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  • Ulf Bauchinger

  • Thomas Van't Hof

  • Herbert Biebach

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