Endocrine correlates of contrasting male mating strategies in the European badger (Meles meles)



In mammals, testosterone secretion is known to respond rapidly to changes in males' immediate social environment. However, such changes do not take testosterone levels below the baseline required to maintain spermatogenesis, and so do not usually affect males' fertility. In this paper, we show that individual males' patterns of testicular activity reflect their social roles in a group-living carnivore, the European badger (Melcs metes), leading to individual and population differences in the seasonal patterns of both testosterone secretion and, apparently, spermatogenesis. In one badger population, some males left their natal groups to become breeding males in neighbouring territories. These males had higher plasma testosterone levels, and appeared to sustain spermatogenesis for a longer period, than males which remained in their natal territories. In contrast, in a second (higher density) population, males rarely transferred away from their natal territories, and appeared not to defend access to groups of females. Instead, males made forays to mate with females in neighbouring territories. In this population males had a shorter period of testicular activity, and there were no differences in testicular activity between immigrant and natal males.