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Do different yolk androgens exert similar effects on the morphology or behaviour of Japanese quail hatchlings Coturnix japonica?


  • Gergely Hegyi,

  • Hubert Schwabl

G. Hegyi and H. Schwabl, School of Biological Sciences, Center for Reproductive Biology, Washington State Univ., Pullman, WA 99164-4236, USA. – G. Hegyi (, Behavioural Ecology Group, Dept of Systematic Zoology and Ecology, Eötvös Loránd Univ., Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, H-1117 Budapest, Hungary.


Avian eggs contain variable levels of several maternal androgens that may all be important in adjusting offspring phenotype at the individual or brood level. Most studies have focused on experimental manipulations of testosterone (T), and the other yolk androgens such as androstenedione (A4) and 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) were so far neglected. However, in species where the amount of A4 in the yolk much exceeds that of the other androgens, A4 could represent the dominant agent of androgen-mediated maternal effects, in which case manipulations of T would be misdirected. We conducted our study in a species with high yolk A4 and relatively low T and DHT levels, the Japanese quail Coturnix japonica. We injected unincubated eggs with a physiological dose of either A4, T, or DHT, and measured hatchling growth, as well as behaviour in an open field test. T treatment non-significantly increased social reinstatement behaviour in the open field test, but it seemed to significantly suppress early skeletal growth and mass gain. The A4 and DHT treatments, in contrast, significantly increased reinstatement behaviour, but did not affect mass and size growth. These results suggest that future investigations should view yolk androgens as integrated components of the complex yolk steroid environment.

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