SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

The relationship between the ontogenetic pattern of sex steroids and the differentiation of sexually dimorphic song in canaries of both sexes was studied. Songs were recorded to assess the temporal course of different developmental stages. Song parameters such as length and frequency of tours were measured. Parallel to behavioural observations, all birds were bled regularly every 20–30 days from the age of 15 days to day 235. The plasma samples were analyzed by RIA to measure testosterone (T), dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and estradiol-17β (E2). The following results were obtained: 1) In young male canaries we distinguish three different stages of song development: subsong, starting at the age of 30 days, plastic song, and juvenile autumnal song finally giving way to the rigid and stable utterances of the reproductive period in next spring. During ontogeny the length and frequency of tours increase gradually. Female canaries were not observed singing regularly during their first year of life, whereas males sing very frequently. 2) Both sexes show tendencies to elevated titres of testosterone before the onset of juvenile moult. These titres correspond to those of paired males during the reproductive cycle. Song development is not correlated with the ontogenetic pattern of testosterone: the process of crystallization from the amorphic songs uttered by juveniles progresses gradually to the autumnal song in late autumn, when the titres of T in males are low (< 200 pg/ml). Female T and DHT levels during ontogeny correspond to those of the males. 3) There are sex differences in the estradiol pattern. Males show higher titres in several stages of development than females.