The influence of testosterone on territorial defence and parental behavior in male free-living rufous whistlers, Pachycephala rufiventris

P. G. McDonald*, W. A. Buttemer, L. B. Astheimer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We studied a population of rufous whistlers, Pachycephala rufiventris, throughout a single breeding season in central New South Wales, Australia. We evaluated the relation between plasma testosterone (T) and reproductive behaviors using both simulated territorial intrusions (STIs) and subcutaneous T implants. We compared circulating T values to aggression levels of males (using STI) during pair bond and territory establishment and again during incubation. Although plasma T levels were significantly lower in the latter period, male responsiveness to STI, in terms of proximity to decoy, call rate, and number of attacks on the decoy, was indistinguishable between the two breeding stages. T levels of males exposed to STI were not different from the levels of unexposed free-living males at the same breeding stage. The effect of exogenous T on parental behavior was examined by comparing duration of incubation bouts of males and their mates prior to and after T treatment. T males significantly reduced the amount of time they incubated following implantation, whereas Control males maintained their incubation effort. After cessation of breeding activities, T males displayed significantly higher call rates due to increased use of the primary intersexual advertisement call in this species. The reduction of incubation behavior following T implantation emphasises the functional significance of the rapid decline in T in free-living males during incubation. The results from both experiments suggest that intersexual advertisement, rather than territorial aggression, may be dependent on high T levels in this species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-194
Number of pages10
JournalHormones and Behavior
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Keywords

  • Aggression
  • Call rates
  • Challenge Hypothesis
  • Incubation dynamics
  • Pachycephala rufiventris
  • Parental care
  • Rufous whistler
  • Simulated territorial intrusion
  • Testosterone
  • Testosterone implants

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