We examined variation at MHC Class IIB genes in a recently established population of dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) in a coastal urban environment in southern California, USA relative to an ancestral-range population from a nearby species-typical montane environment. The founding population is estimated to have been quite small, but we predicted that variation at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) among the founders would nevertheless be preserved owing to the high functional significance of MHC. Previous studies of MHC in songbirds have had varying degrees of success in isolating loci, as passerines show extensive MHC gene duplication. In order to compare diversity in the two populations, we employed two published approaches to sequencing MHC Class II exon 2: direct sequencing with exon-based primers, and traditional cloning and sequencing with intron-based primers. Results from both methods show that the colonist population has maintained high levels of variation. Our results also indicate varying numbers of alleles across individuals, corroborating evidence for gene duplication in songbird MHC. While future studies in songbirds may need to take a genomic approach to fully understand the structure of MHC in this lineage, our results show that it is possible to use traditional methods to reveal functional variation across populations.
MHC; birds; passerines; colonization
Novel or changing environments expose animals to diverse stressors that likely require coordinated hormonal and behavioral adaptations. Predicted adaptations to urban environments include attenuated physiological responses to stressors and bolder exploratory behaviors, but few studies to date have evaluated the impact of urban life on codivergence of these hormonal and behavioral traits in natural systems. Here, we demonstrate rapid adaptive shifts in both stress physiology and correlated boldness behaviors in a songbird, the dark-eyed junco, following its colonization of a novel urban environment. We compared elevation in corticosterone (CORT) in response to handling and flight initiation distances in birds from a recently established urban population in San Diego, California to birds from a nearby wildland population in the species' ancestral montane breeding range. We also measured CORT and exploratory behavior in birds raised from early life in a captive common garden study. We found persistent population differences for both reduced CORT responses and bolder exploratory behavior in birds from the colonist population, as well as significant negative covariation between maximum CORT and exploratory behavior. Although early developmental effects cannot be ruled out, these results suggest contemporary adaptive evolution of correlated hormonal and behavioral traits associated with colonization of an urban habitat.
adaptation; boldness; corticosterone; evolution; junco; urbanization
Some species of songbirds elevate testosterone in response to territorial intrusions while others do not. The search for a general explanation for this interspecific variation in hormonal response to social challenges has been impeded by methodological differences among studies. We asked whether song playback alone is sufficient to bring about elevation in testosterone or corticosterone in the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), a species that has previously demonstrated significant testosterone elevation in response to a simulated territorial intrusion when song was accompanied by a live decoy. We studied two populations of juncos that differ in length of breeding season (6–8 v. 14–16 weeks), and conducted playbacks of high amplitude, long-range song. In one population, we also played low amplitude, short-range song, a highly potent elicitor of aggression in juncos and many songbirds. We observed strong aggressive responses to both types of song, but no detectable elevation of plasma testosterone or corticosterone in either population. We also measured rise in corticosterone in response to handling post-playback, and found full capacity to elevate corticosterone but no effect of song class (long-range or short-range) on elevation. Collectively, our data suggest that males can mount an aggressive response to playback without a change in testosterone or corticosterone, despite the ability to alter these hormones during other types of social interactions. We discuss the observed decoupling of circulating hormones and aggression in relation to mechanisms of behavior and the cues that may activate the HPA and HPG axes.
The dark-eyed junco (junco hyemalis) exhibits differential migration in autumn that, in general, results in females overwintering south of males, and young within each sex overwintering north of older birds. Individuals overwintering at higher latitudes face less predictable and more challenging environmental conditions. Rapid increases in circulating levels of the energy-regulating glucocorticosteroid, corticosterone, occur in response to environmental stressors. To establish whether the strength of acute corticosterone secretion was correlated with the probability of encountering poor environmental conditions, we compared the corticosterone stress response (e.g. initial plasma concentrations at the time of capture and 30 min later) in dark-eyed juncos overwintering in Mississippi (MS), USA, near the southern limit of their wintering range, with juncos overwintering in New York (NY), USA, near the northern limit of their wintering range. During two winters, 22 males and one female were sampled in NY; 13 males, 12 females and one bird of undetermined sex were sampled in MS. Not unexpectedly, NY birds carried greater fat reserves that resulted in a significantly higher value of energetic condition (mass corrected for wing cord cubed). There was no difference between the two winters sampled at either site, nor was there an effect of sex on patterns of corticosterone secretion in MS birds. With sexes pooled, MS and NY birds had similar baseline corticosterone levels. However, as predicted, NY birds exhibited significantly higher corticosterone concentrations 30 min after capture. These results support the hypothesis that birds wintering in less predictable, more extreme environments show a higher amplitude corticosterone response, which may enable them to adjust their behaviour and physiology more rapidly in response to environmental stressors such as storms. Adrenocortical sensitivity may be a part of the physiological milieu associated with differential migration in juncos; whether it results from endogenous differences in the migratory programmes of individuals or from acclimatization to local environmental conditions remains to be determined.
Pleistocene glacial cycles are thought to have played a major role in the diversification of temperate and boreal species of North American birds. Given that coalescence times between sister taxa typically range from 0.1 to 2.0 Myr, it has been assumed that diversification occurred as populations were isolated in refugia over long periods of time, probably spanning one to several full glacial cycles. In contrast, the rapid postglacial range expansions and recolonization of northern latitudes following glacial maxima have received less attention as potential promoters of speciation. Here we report a case of extremely rapid diversification in the songbird genus Junco as a result of a single continent-wide range expansion within the last 10 000 years. Molecular data from 264 juncos sampled throughout their range reveal that as the yellow-eyed junco (Junco phaeonotus) of Mesoamerica expanded northward following the last glacial maximum, it speciated into the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), which subsequently diversified itself into at least five markedly distinct and geographically structured morphotypes in the USA and Canada. Patterns of low genetic structure and diversity in mitochondrial DNA and amplified fragment length polymorphism loci found in dark-eyed juncos relative to Mesoamerican yellow-eyed juncos provide support for the hypothesis of an expansion from the south, followed by rapid diversification in the north. These results underscore the role of postglacial expansions in promoting diversification and speciation through a mechanism that represents an alternative to traditional modes of Pleistocene speciation.
speciation; postglacial expansion; phylogeography; Holocene; Junco
Despite sharing much of their genomes, males and females are often highly dimorphic, reflecting at least in part the resolution of sexual conflict in response to sexually antagonistic selection. Sexual dimorphism arises owing to sex differences in gene expression, and steroid hormones are often invoked as a proximate cause of sexual dimorphism. Experimental elevation of androgens can modify behavior, physiology, and gene expression, but knowledge of the role of hormones remains incomplete, including how the sexes differ in gene expression in response to hormones. We addressed these questions in a bird species with a long history of behavioral endocrinological and ecological study, the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), using a custom microarray. Focusing on two brain regions involved in sexually dimorphic behavior and regulation of hormone secretion, we identified 651 genes that differed in expression by sex in medial amygdala and 611 in hypothalamus. Additionally, we treated individuals of each sex with testosterone implants and identified many genes that may be related to previously identified phenotypic effects of testosterone treatment. Some of these genes relate to previously identified effects of testosterone-treatment and suggest that the multiple effects of testosterone may be mediated by modifying the expression of a small number of genes. Notably, testosterone-treatment tended to alter expression of different genes in each sex: only 4 of the 527 genes identified as significant in one sex or the other were significantly differentially expressed in both sexes. Hormonally regulated gene expression is a key mechanism underlying sexual dimorphism, and our study identifies specific genes that may mediate some of these processes.
The evolutionary divergence of island populations, and in particular the tempo and relative importance of neutral and selective factors, is of central interest to the study of speciation. The rate of phenotypic evolution upon island colonization can vary greatly among taxa, and cases of convergent evolution can further confound the inference of correct evolutionary histories. Given the potential lability of phenotypic characters, molecular dating of insular lineages analyzed in a phylogenetic framework provides a critical tool to test hypotheses of phenotypic divergence since colonization. The Guadalupe junco is the only insular form of the polymorphic dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), and shares eye and plumage color with continental morphs, yet presents an enlarged bill and reduced body size. Here we use variation in mtDNA sequence, morphological traits and song variables to test whether the Guadalupe junco evolved rapidly following a recent colonization by a mainland form of the dark-eyed junco, or instead represents a well-differentiated “cryptic” lineage adapted to the insular environment through long-term isolation, with plumage coloration a result of evolutionary convergence. We found high mtDNA divergence of the island lineage with respect to both continental J. hyemalis and J. phaeonotus, representing a history of isolation of about 600,000 years. The island lineage was also significantly differentiated in morphological and male song variables. Moreover, and contrary to predictions regarding diversity loss on small oceanic islands, we document relatively high levels of both haplotypic and song-unit diversity on Guadalupe Island despite long-term isolation in a very small geographic area. In contrast to prevailing taxonomy, the Guadalupe junco is an old, well-differentiated evolutionary lineage, whose similarity to mainland juncos in plumage and eye color is due to evolutionary convergence. Our findings confirm the role of remote islands in driving divergence and speciation, but also their potential role as repositories of ancestral diversity.
Monogamous male birds typically allocate less effort to courtship and more to parental behaviour than males of polygynous species. The seasonal pattern of testosterone (T) secretion varies accordingly. Monogamous males exhibit a spring peak in plasma T followed by lower levels during the parental phase, while males of polygynous species continue to court females and maintain T at higher levels. To determine whether testosterone underlies the trade-off between mating and parental effort, we treated male dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) with exogenous T and compared the reproductive success (RS) of T-treated males (T-males) to that of controls. T-males had lower apparent annual RS than controls, probably because elevated T reduced parental care. Nevertheless, annual genetic RS of the treatment groups was similar because (i) T-males suffered fewer losses in genetic RS due to extra-pair fertilizations (EPFs), and (ii) T-males gained more genetic RS through their own EPFs. This is the first hormonal manipulation of an avian phenotype shown to have influenced male RS through EPFs. Together with other studies, it suggests that testosterone may have mediated the evolution of inter- and intraspecific differences in allocation of reproductive effort to mate attraction and parental care.
Hormones Mating Systems Testosterone Reproductive Success Dna Fingerprinting Paternity
Different forms of aggression have traditionally been treated separately according to function or context (e.g. aggression towards a conspecific versus a predator). However, recent work on individual consistency in behavior predicts that different forms of aggression may be correlated across contexts, suggesting a lack of independence. For nesting birds, aggression towards both conspecifics and nest predators can affect reproductive success, yet the relationship between these behaviors, especially in females, is not known. Here we examine free-living female dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) and compare their aggressive responses towards three types of simulated intruders near the nest: a same-sex conspecific, an opposite-sex conspecific, and a nest predator. We also examine differences in the strength of response that might relate to the immediacy of the perceived threat the intruder poses for the female or her offspring. We found greater aggression directed towards a predator than a same-sex intruder, and towards a same-sex than an opposite-sex intruder, consistent with a predator being a more immediate threat than a same-sex intruder, followed by an opposite-sex intruder. We also found positive relationships across individuals between responses to a same-sex intruder and a simulated predator, and between responses to a same-sex and an opposite-sex intruder, indicating that individual females are consistent in their relative level of aggression across contexts. If correlated behaviors are mediated by related mechanisms, then different forms of aggression may be expressions of the same behavioral tendency and constrained from evolving independently.
Female aggression; nest defense; behavioral syndrome; personality; Junco; intra- and inter-specific aggression
In a variety of taxa, male reproductive success is positively related to expression of costly traits such as large body size, ornaments, armaments, and aggression. These traits are thought to improve male competitive ability, and thus access to limited reproductive resources. Females of many species also express competitive traits. However, we know very little about the consequences of individual variation in competitive traits and the mechanisms that regulate their expression in females. Consequently, it is currently unclear whether females express competitive traits owing to direct selection or as an indirect result of selection on males. Here we examine females of a mildly dimorphic songbird (Junco hyemalis) to determine whether females, show positive covariance in traits (morphology and behavior) that may be important in a competition. We also examine whether trait expression relates either to testosterone (T) in terms of mechanism or to reproductive success in terms of function. We found that larger females were more aggressive and that greater ability to produce T in response to a physiological challenge consisting of a standardized injection of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) predicted some measures of female body size and aggression. Finally, we found that aggressive females had greater reproductive success. We conclude that testosterone may influence female phenotype and that females may benefit from expressing a competitive phenotype. We also suggest that the mild dimorphism observed in many species may be due in part to direct selection on females rather than simply a correlated response to selection in males.
competitive phenotype; female aggression; testosterone; Gonadotropin releasing hormone; Junco hyemalis; sexual dimorphism
In many species, each female pairs with a single male for the purpose of rearing offspring, but may also engage in extra-pair copulations. Despite the prevalence of such promiscuity, whether and how multiple mating benefits females remains an open question. Multiple mating is typically thought to be favoured primarily through indirect benefits (i.e. heritable effects on the fitness of offspring). This prediction has been repeatedly tested in a variety of species, but the evidence has been equivocal, perhaps because such studies have focused on pre-reproductive survival rather than lifetime fitness of offspring. Here, we show that in a songbird, the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), both male and female offspring produced by extra-pair fertilizations have higher lifetime reproductive success than do offspring sired within the social pair. Furthermore, adult male offspring sired via extra-pair matings are more likely to sire extra-pair offspring (EPO) themselves, suggesting that fitness benefits to males accrue primarily through enhanced mating success. By contrast, female EPO benefited primarily through enhanced fecundity. Our results provide strong support for the hypothesis that the evolution of extra-pair mating by females is favoured by indirect benefits and shows that such benefits accrue much later in the offspring's life than previously documented.
extra-pair mating; multiple mating; lifetime reproductive success; indirect fitness benefits; sexual selection
Though genomic-level data are becoming widely available, many of the metazoan species sequenced are laboratory systems whose natural history is not well documented. In contrast, the wide array of species with very well-characterized natural history have, until recently, lacked genomics tools. It is now possible to address significant evolutionary genomics questions by applying high-throughput sequencing to discover the majority of genes for ecologically tractable species, and by subsequently developing microarray platforms from which to investigate gene regulatory networks that function in natural systems. We used GS-FLX Titanium Sequencing (Roche/454-Sequencing) of two normalized libraries of pooled RNA samples to characterize a transcriptome of the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), a North American sparrow that is a classically studied species in the fields of photoperiodism, speciation, and hormone-mediated behavior.
From a broad pool of RNA sampled from tissues throughout the body of a male and a female junco, we sequenced a total of 434 million nucleotides from 1.17 million reads that were assembled de novo into 31,379 putative transcripts representing 22,765 gene sets covering 35.8 million nucleotides with 12-fold average depth of coverage. Annotation of roughly half of the putative genes was accomplished using sequence similarity, and expression was confirmed for the majority with a preliminary microarray analysis. Of 716 core bilaterian genes, 646 (90 %) were recovered within our characterized gene set. Gene Ontology, orthoDB orthology groups, and KEGG Pathway annotation provide further functional information about the sequences, and 25,781 potential SNPs were identified.
The extensive sequence information returned by this effort adds to the growing store of genomic data on diverse species. The extent of coverage and annotation achieved and confirmation of expression, show that transcriptome sequencing provides useful information for ecological model systems that have historically lacked genomic tools. The junco-specific microarray developed here is allowing investigations of gene expression responses to environmental and hormonal manipulations – extending the historic work on natural history and hormone-mediated phenotypes in this system.
Transcriptome; Aves; pyrosequencing; microarray; Junco; 454 titanium cDNA sequencing; single nucleotide polymorphism.
Evolution of complex cognition in animals has been linked to complex social behaviour. One of the costs of sociality is increased competition for food which may be reduced by food caching, but cache theft may undermine the benefits of caching. In birds, sophisticated food-caching-related cognition has been demonstrated only for corvids and attributed to their highly social behaviour. Many non-corvid food-caching species exhibit similar complex social behaviour and here I provide experimental evidence that mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli) adjust their caching strategies depending on social context. Chickadees were allowed to cache seeds in the presence of potential cache pilferer, either conspecific or heterospecific (red-breasted nuthatch, Sitta canadensis) and a non-pilferer (dark-eyed junco, Junco hyemalis) positioned at the opposite sides of the experimental arena. Available caching sites were either exposed to these observers or hidden from their view while the cacher could always see both observers. Chickadees chose caching sites that were hidden from direct view of the potential pilferers while caching in direct view of the non-pilferers. When no pilferers were present, chickadees made equal use of all available caching substrates and there were no differences in the amount of caching in the presence or absence of pilferers. These results suggest that (i) chickadees may be able to recognize potential cache thieves, both conspecific and heterospecific, and adjust their caching strategies to minimize potential cache pilferage and (ii) chickadees appear to discriminate between caching sites that can or cannot be seen by observers, which may allow them to control visual information available to potential pilferers.
food caching; avian cognition; cache protection; chickadee; cognition
Testosterone (T) regulates many traits related to fitness, including aggression. However, individual variation in aggressiveness does not always relate to circulating T, suggesting that behavioural variation may be more closely related to neural sensitivity to steroids, though this issue remains unresolved. To assess the relative importance of circulating T and neural steroid sensitivity in predicting behaviour, we measured aggressiveness during staged intrusions in free-living male and female dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis). We compared aggressiveness to plasma T levels and to the abundance of androgen receptor (AR), aromatase (AROM) and oestrogen receptor alpha (ORα) mRNA in behaviourally relevant brain areas (avian medial amygdala, hypothalamus and song control regions). We also asked whether patterns of covariation among behaviour and endocrine parameters differed in males and females, anticipating that circulating T may be a better predictor of behaviour in males than in females. We found that circulating T related to aggressiveness only in males, but that gene expression for ORα, AR and AROM covaried with individual differences in aggressiveness in both sexes. These findings are among the first to show that individual variation in neural gene expression for three major sex steroid-processing molecules predicts individual variation in aggressiveness in both sexes in nature. The results have broad implications for our understanding of the mechanisms by which aggressive behaviour may evolve.
aggression; testosterone; aromatase; oestrogen receptor; androgen receptor; evolution
Mice can discriminate between chemosignals of individuals based solely on genetic differences confined to the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Two different sets of compounds have been suggested: volatile compounds and non-volatile peptides. Here, we focus on volatiles and review a number of publications that have identified MHC-regulated compounds in inbred laboratory mice. Surprisingly, there is little agreement among different studies as to the identity of these compounds. One recent approach to specifying MHC-regulated compounds is to study volatile urinary profiles in mouse strains with varying MHC types, genetic backgrounds and different diets. An unexpected finding from these studies is that the concentrations of numerous compounds are influenced by interactions among these variables. As a result, only a few compounds can be identified that are consistently regulated by MHC variation alone. Nevertheless, since trained animals are readily able to discriminate the MHC differences, it is apparent that chemical studies are somehow missing important information underlying mouse recognition of MHC odourtypes. To make progress in this area, we propose a focus on the search for behaviourally relevant odourants rather than a random search for volatiles that are regulated by MHC variation. Furthermore, there is a need to consider a ‘combinatorial odour recognition’ code whereby patterns of volatile metabolites (the basis for odours) specify MHC odourtypes.
MHC odourtypes; volatile chemosignals; genetic variation; environmental variation; combinatorial odour recognition
Recent research has shown that female expression of competitive traits can be advantageous, providing greater access to limited reproductive resources. In males increased competitive trait expression often comes at a cost, e.g. trading off with parental effort. However, it is currently unclear whether, and to what extent, females also face such tradeoffs, whether the costs associated with that tradeoff overwhelm the potential benefits of resource acquisition, and how environmental factors might alter those relationships. To address this gap, we examine the relationships between aggression, maternal effort, offspring quality and reproductive success in a common songbird, the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), over two breeding seasons. We found that compared to less aggressive females, more aggressive females spent less time brooding nestlings, but fed nestlings more frequently. In the year with better breeding conditions, more aggressive females produced smaller eggs and lighter hatchlings, but in the year with poorer breeding conditions they produced larger eggs and achieved greater nest success. There was no relationship between aggression and nestling mass after hatch day in either year. These findings suggest that though females appear to tradeoff competitive ability with some forms of maternal care, the costs may be less than previously thought. Further, the observed year effects suggest that costs and benefits vary according to environmental variables, which may help to account for variation in the level of trait expression.
We conducted serological studies, using epitope-blocking ELISAs directed at West Nile virus (WNV) and flavivirus antibodies, of wild birds in south-central Kansas, the first for this state, in the winters of 2003–04 through 2005–06. Overwintering migratory species (primarily the American tree sparrow and dark-eyed junco) consistently showed significantly lower seropositivity than permanent residents (primarily the northern cardinal). The cardinal showed annual variation in seropositivity between winters. Of 35 birds that were serial sampled within a single winter, one cardinal may have seroconverted between late December and mid-February, providing a preliminary suggestion of continued enzootic transmission, chronic infection, or bird-bird transfer as overwintering mechanisms. Breeding population size of the cardinal did not change after the introduction of WNV to Kansas. Of eighteen birds that were serial sampled between winters, none seroconverted. Among overwintering migrants, the Harris' Sparrow showed the highest seropositivity, possibly related to its migration route through the central Great Plains, an area of recent high WNV activity. The finding that permanent resident birds exhibit higher seropositivity than migrant birds suggests that resident birds contribute to the initiation of annual infection cycles, although this conclusion is speculative in the absence of data on viral titers and the length of viremia. Key Words: West Nile Virus—flavivirus—birds—epitope-blocking ELISA––winter.
Wild aquatic birds in the Orders Anseriformes and Charadriiformes are the main reservoir hosts perpetuating the genetic pool of all influenza A viruses, including pandemic viruses. High viral loads in feces of infected birds permit a fecal-oral route of transmission. Numerous studies have reported the isolation of avian influenza viruses (AIVs) from surface water at aquatic bird habitats. These isolations indicate aquatic environments have an important role in the transmission of AIV among wild aquatic birds. However, the progressive dilution of infectious feces in water could decrease the likelihood of virus/host interactions. To evaluate whether alternate mechanisms facilitate AIV transmission in aquatic bird populations, we investigated whether the preen oil gland secretions by which all aquatic birds make their feathers waterproof could support a natural mechanism that concentrates AIVs from water onto birds' bodies, thus, representing a possible source of infection by preening activity. We consistently detected both viral RNA and infectious AIVs on swabs of preened feathers of 345 wild mallards by using reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and virus-isolation (VI) assays. Additionally, in two laboratory experiments using a quantitative real-time (qR) RT-PCR assay, we demonstrated that feather samples (n = 5) and cotton swabs (n = 24) experimentally impregnated with preen oil, when soaked in AIV-contaminated waters, attracted and concentrated AIVs on their surfaces. The data presented herein provide information that expands our understanding of AIV ecology in the wild bird reservoir system.
Recently, a shift in preen wax composition, from lower molecular weight monoesters to higher molecular weight diesters, was described for individuals of a sandpiper species (red knot, Calidris canutus) that were about to leave for the tundra breeding grounds. The timing of the shift indicated that diester waxes served as a quality signal during mate choice. Here, this hypothesis is evaluated on the basis of a survey of preen wax composition in 19 sandpiper species. All of these species showed the same shift observed in the high-Arctic breeding red knots. As the shift also occurred in temperate breeding species, it is not specific to tundra-breeding sandpipers. Both sexes produced the diester waxes during the incubation period until hatching, in addition to the short period of courtship, indicating that diesters' functions extend beyond that of a sexually selected 'make-up'. The few non-incubating birds examined (males of curlew sandpipers (C. ferruginea) and ruffs (Philomachus pugnax)) had the lowest likelihood of secreting diesters, indicating a functional role for diester preen waxes during incubation. We propose that diester preen waxes enhance olfactory crypticism at the nest.
In seasonally breeding, photoperiodic birds, the development of photorefractoriness is associated with decreased brain expression of gonadotropin-releasing hormone-like immunoreactivity (GnRH-li ir) and increased expression of vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-like immunoreactivity (VIP-li ir). Dissipation of photorefractoriness and reestablishment of photosensitivity are associated with increased GnRH-li ir brain production, but concurrent changes in VIP-li ir expression have not been investigated. To address this question, we compared the expression of VIP-li ir in the infundibulum (INF) of adult male dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) that were made photorefractory (PR) by prolonged exposure to long days with that of birds that were not photostimulated (PS), but had regained photosensitivity by exposure to short days for 5 (short-term-PS, ST-PS) or 13 (long-term-PS, LT-PS) consecutive months. Photosensitive males had smaller INF VIP-li ir cell bodies than PR males, but the numbers of INF VIP-li ir cells were independent of photoperiodic condition. Changes in infundibular VIP-li ir were correlated with changes in preoptic area (POA) GnRH-li expression. Specifically, photosensitive males had more and larger POA GnRH-li ir cells and more GnRH-li ir fibers in this region than PR males. Further, LT-PS males had more GnRH-li ir POA fibers and larger testes than ST-PS juncos. Thus, induction of photorefractoriness is associated with increased VIP and decreased GnRH brain expression whereas dissipation of photorefractoriness concurs with decreased VIP and increased GnRH brain expression. These results suggest a physiological role for VIP in the control of changes in GnRH expression as a function of the photosensitive condition.
GnRH; VIP; reproduction; prolactin; seasonality; photoperiodism; photosensitivity; photorefractoriness; immunocytochemistry; preoptic area; infundibulum
Adult galliform birds (e.g. chickens) exhibit a relatively small telencephalon and a proportionately large optic tectum compared with parrots and songbirds. We previously examined the embryonic origins of these adult species differences and found that the optic tectum is larger in quail than in parakeets and songbirds at early stages of development, prior to tectal neurogenesis onset. The aim of this study was to determine whether a proportionately large presumptive tectum is a primitive condition within birds or a derived feature of quail and other galliform birds. To this end, we examined embryonic brains of several avian species (emus, parrots, songbirds, waterfowl, galliform birds), reptiles (3 lizard species, alligators, turtles) and a monotreme (platypuses). Brain region volumes were estimated from serial Nissl-stained sections. We found that the embryos of galliform birds and lizards exhibit a proportionally larger presumptive tectum than all the other examined species. The presumptive tectum of the platypus is unusually small. The most parsimonious interpretation of these data is that the expanded embryonic tectum of lizards and galliform birds is a derived feature in both of these taxonomic groups.
Bird; Development; Mammal; Monotreme; Reptile; Tectum; Vision
The underlying assumption of the aerobic capacity model for the evolution of endothermy is that basal (BMR) and maximal aerobic metabolic rates are phenotypically linked. However, because BMR is largely a function of central organs whereas maximal metabolic output is largely a function of skeletal muscles, the mechanistic underpinnings for their linkage are not obvious. Interspecific studies in birds generally support a phenotypic correlation between BMR and maximal metabolic output. If the aerobic capacity model is valid, these phenotypic correlations should also extend to intraspecific comparisons. We measured BMR, Msum (maximum thermoregulatory metabolic rate) and MMR (maximum exercise metabolic rate in a hop-flutter chamber) in winter for dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), American goldfinches (Carduelis tristis; Msum and MMR only), and black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus; BMR and Msum only) and examined correlations among these variables. We also measured BMR and Msum in individual house sparrows (Passer domesticus) in both summer, winter and spring. For both raw metabolic rates and residuals from allometric regressions, BMR was not significantly correlated with either Msum or MMR in juncos. Moreover, no significant correlation between Msum and MMR or their mass-independent residuals occurred for juncos or goldfinches. Raw BMR and Msum were significantly positively correlated for black-capped chickadees and house sparrows, but mass-independent residuals of BMR and Msum were not. These data suggest that central organ and exercise organ metabolic levels are not inextricably linked and that muscular capacities for exercise and shivering do not necessarily vary in tandem in individual birds. Why intraspecific and interspecific avian studies show differing results and the significance of these differences to the aerobic capacity model are unknown, and resolution of these questions will require additional studies of potential mechanistic links between minimal and maximal metabolic output.
Because testosterone (T) often mediates the expression of attractive displays and ornaments, in the absence of constraints sexual selection should lead to an evolutionary increase in male T levels. One candidate constraint would be a genetic correlation between the sexes that leads to a correlated response in females. If increased T in females were to have deleterious effects on mate choice, the effect of sexual selection on male T would be weakened. Using female dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), we tested whether experimentally enhancing female T would lead to a decrease in discrimination between two classes of males, one treated with T (T-males) and one control (C-males). The two female treatments (T-implanted and C-females) spent equal amounts of time with both classes of males, but T-treated females failed to show a preference for either male treatment, whereas C-females showed a significant preference, albeit in an unexpected direction (for C-males). T-females were less discriminating than C-females, irrespective of the direction of their preference. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that circulating hormones can alter female choosiness without reducing sexual motivation. Our results suggest that hormonal correlations between the sexes have the potential to constrain sexual selection on males.
Although songbirds provide well-known examples of cultural transmission of vocalizations, little is known about this process in species that live in stable social groups. Here I describe complex vocal traditions in a cooperatively breeding songbird, the stripe-backed wren (Campylorhynchus nuchalis). Repertoires of stereotyped calls were recorded from individually marked males and females in cooperative family groups. Males in the same patriline, whether in the same group or in different groups, had call repertoires that were nearly identical. Females in the same matriline also had identical call repertoires; however, female calls never matched the calls of males in the same group or in any nearby groups. Unrelated birds almost never shared calls. Call repertoires are apparently learned preferentially from same-sex relatives within family groups, so that call traditions separately follow patrilines and matrilines. This unique pattern of transmission results in vocal cues that reflect both sex and kinship.
Many birds exhibit short-term, reversible adjustments in basal metabolic rate (BMR), but the overall contribution of phenotypic plasticity to avian metabolic diversity remains unclear. The available BMR data include estimates from birds living in natural environments and captive-raised birds in more homogenous, artificial environments. All previous analyses of interspecific variation in BMR have pooled these data. We hypothesized that phenotypic plasticity is an important contributor to interspecific variation in avian BMR, and that captive-raised populations exhibit general differences in BMR compared to wild-caught populations. We tested this hypothesis by fitting general linear models to BMR data for 231 bird species, using the generalized least-squares approach to correct for phylogenetic relatedness when necessary. The scaling exponent relating BMR to body mass in captive-raised birds (0.670) was significantly shallower than in wild-caught birds (0.744). The differences in metabolic scaling between captive-raised and wild-caught birds persisted when migratory tendency and habitat aridity were controlled for. Our results reveal that phenotypic plasticity is a major contributor to avian interspecific metabolic variation. The finding that metabolic scaling in birds is partly determined by environmental factors provides further support for models that predict variation in scaling exponents, such as the allometric cascade model.
metabolic scaling; captivity; allometry; basal metabolic rate