Interspecific differences in photosensitivity between three closely related species of pigeons



It is known from field observations that vernal gonad recrudescence begins in January for the Stock dove, a month later at the end of February for the Wood pigeon, while many town pigeons (Columba livia) have active gonads throughout the year.

Photostimulation experiments demonstrate that spermatogenesis can be stimulated in the Stock dove by exposure to an artificial daylength regimeincreasing from 9.1 to 10.8 hours over 28 days. This photoperiod is the approximate equivalent of natural daylength changes occurring from late January onwards at 52° N. The same phototreatment, however, was not stimulatory for the testes of Wood pigeons, which required the equivalent of a March photoperiod. Natural daylength changes occurring in late November and December failed to evoke gametogenetic recovery in Stock dove controls.

The gonads of feral pigeons in full breeding condition were unaffected when the subjects were transferred from full summer photoperiods to those found in midwinter and spermatogenesis was maintained in birds kept under winter daylengths for four months.

The discussion mentions the problem of intraspecific geographical variation in photosensitivity. Scottish Wood pigeons begin their gonad recovery earlier and by March have considerably larger testes than birds in the south of England. Furthermore, they achieve this more advanced condition before the vernal equinox when daylengths are shorter in Scotland than in the south of England.