Hatching asynchrony and maternal androgens in egg yolks of House Wrens


  • Lisa A. Ellis,

  • David W. Borst,

  • Charles F. Thompson

L. A. Ellis, D. W. Borst and C. F. Thompson, Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics Section, Department of Biological Sciences, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4120 USA. E-mail: wrens@ilstu.edu.


Synchronously and asynchronously hatching clutches of House Wrens Troglodytesaedon usually do not differ in reproductive success. Thus late-hatching nestlings in asynchronously hatching clutches somehow overcome any age- and size-related disadvantages of hatching after their nest-mates. One possible way for them to do this is for female House Wrens to add maternal androgens to the yolk of late-hatching eggs. We tested this hypothesis in a wild population of House Wrens that produces both asynchronously and synchronously hatching clutches. Yolks of eggs from both types of clutches were biopsied and the eggs returned to their nests to hatch. Radioimmunoassays revealed that total androgen levels in the yolk varied within and among clutches. However, total androgen levels in yolks did not vary predictably with egg position in either synchronously or asynchronously hatching clutches. Thus, deposition of androgens in yolk did not follow the expected pattern based on the potential for sibling competition in House Wrens.