Birds of Indian Subcontinent

Testosterone Upregulates Lipoprotein Status to Control Sexual Attractiveness in a Colorful Songbird

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2006
Authors:McGraw, KJ, Correa, SM, Adkins-Regan, E
Journal:Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Date Published:2006
ISBN Number:03405443
Keywords:Estrildidae, Taeniopygia, Taeniopygia guttata
Abstract:A salient feature of many secondary sexual characteristics in animals is that their expression is controlled by sex-steroid hormones. However, for only a few types of ornaments do we know the precise molecular mechanism by which androgens like testosterone (T) enhance trait production. We studied the red carotenoid-based beak of male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), which serves as a sexually selected trait and is thought to be T dependent. In previous research, we demonstrated that the extent to which male finches produce lipoproteins in the bloodstream, which bind carotenoid pigments acquired from the diet and transport them to peripheral tissues, regulates the accumulation of carotenoids in the body and beak pigmentation. Here we show that T acts to upregulate lipoprotein production and allows male zebra finches to display flashy, sexually attractive coloration. Levels of circulating T in blood positively and significantly predicted lipoprotein profile (as measured by cholesterol levels), blood carotenoid concentration, and beak color. Exogenous T administration elevated cholesterol and carotenoid status as well as beak redness. Last, experimental inhibition of T (using the anti-androgen flutamide) downregulated lipoprotein production and carotenoid circulation and faded the beak. This androgen- and lipoprotein-mediated system represents one of the more detailed physiological mechanisms underlying the development of a sex-steroid-dependent trait in animals.
Short Title:Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith