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Experimental induction of social instability during early breeding does not alter testosterone levels in male black redstarts, a socially monogamous songbird

Hormones and Behavior
DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.08.005
  • Testosterone
  • Social Instability
  • Floaters
  • Removal Experiment
  • Territoriality
  • Territory
  • Songbird
  • Steroid Hormones
  • Territorial Aggression


Abstract Testosterone plays an important role in territorial behavior of many male vertebrates and the Challenge Hypothesis has been suggested to explain differences in testosterone concentrations between males. For socially monogamous birds, the challenge hypothesis predicts that testosterone should increase during male–male interactions. To test this, simulated territorial intrusion (STI) experiments have been conducted, but only about a third of all bird species investigated so far show the expected increase in testosterone. Previous studies have shown that male black redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros) do not increase testosterone during STIs or short-term male–male challenges. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether black redstarts modulate testosterone in an experimentally induced longer-term unstable social situation. We created social instability by removing males from their territories and compared the behavior and testosterone concentrations of replacement males and neighbors with those of control areas. Testosterone levels did not differ among replacement males, neighbors and control males. Injections with GnRH resulted in elevation of testosterone in all groups, suggesting that all males were capable of increasing testosterone. We found no difference in the behavioral response to STIs between control and replacement males. Furthermore, there was no difference in testosterone levels between replacement males that had expanded their territory and new-coming males. In combination with prior work these data suggest that testosterone is not modulated by male–male interactions in black redstarts and that testosterone plays only a minor role in territorial behavior. We suggest that territorial behavior in species that are territorial throughout most of their annual life-cycle may be decoupled from testosterone.

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