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Diverse dose-response effects of yolk androgens on embryo development and nestling growth in a wild passerine

AuthorsMuriel, Jaime ; Pérez-Rodríguez, Lorenzo ; Puerta, Marisa; Gil, Diego
KeywordsHormone transfer
Maternal effects
Sturnus unicolor
Developmental plasticity
Issue Date2015
PublisherCompany of Biologists
CitationJournal of Experimental Biology 218: 2241-2249 (2015)
AbstractAvian egg yolks contain various amounts of maternally derived androgens that can modify offspring phenotype and adjust their development to the post-hatching environment. Seemingly adaptive variation in yolk androgen levels with respect to breeding density conditions or male attractiveness has been found in numerous studies. One important consideration that has been overlooked in previous research is the likely non-linear nature of hormone effects. To examine possible complex dose - response effects of maternal androgens on chick development, we experimentally administered three different androgen doses of the naturally occurring mixture of yolk testosterone and androstenedione to spotless starling eggs (Sturnus unicolor). We found that yolk androgens induce a non-linear dose - response pattern in several traits. Androgens had a stimulatory effect on hatchling body mass and nestling skeletal growth, but maximum values were found at intermediate doses, whereas our highest dose resulted in a decrease. However, the opposite U-shaped effect was found on nestling body mass. We also detected linear negative and positive effects on embryonic development period and nestling gape width, respectively. Our results suggest differential tissue responsiveness to yolk androgens, which may result in compromises in maternal allocation to produce adapted phenotypes. Because of the non-linear dose - response pattern, future investigations should carefully consider a wide range of concentrations, as the balance of costs and benefits may strongly differ depending on concentration.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1242/jeb.118257
issn: 0022-0949
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