Sex and testosterone effects on growth, immunity and melanin coloration of nestling Eurasian kestrels

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) Science Article 10


Sex differences in testosterone levels and sex-biased sensitivity to testosterone are the basis of some ideas postulated to account for sex-linked environmental vulnerability during early life. However, sex variation in circulating testosterone levels has been scarcely explored and never manipulated at post-natal stages of birds in the wild. We measured and experimentally increased circulating testosterone levels in nestling Eurasian kestrels Falco tinnunculus. We investigated, possible sexual differences in testosterone levels and the effect of this hormone on growth (body mass and tarsus length) and cell-mediated immunity in males and females. We also explored testosterone effects on rump coloration, a highly variable melanin-based trait in male nestlings. We analysed data on circulating testosterone levels of nestlings in 15 additional bird species. Increased levels of testosterone tended to negatively affect body condition, reduced cell-mediated immune responses in male and female nestlings and also diminished the expression of grey rump coloration in male nestlings. No sex differences were observed in testosterone levels in either control or increased testosterone group nestlings, and no interactions were found between sex and treatment. However, male nestlings showed a lower cell-mediated immune response than females in both groups.

JUAN A. FARGALLO, JESuS MARTINEZ-PADILLA, et al., Journal of Animal Ecology 76 (1), 201-209

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