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Effects of prenatal testosterone exposure on antioxidant status and bill color in adult zebra finches.

  • Michael Tobler
  • Maria Sandell
  • Sandra Sköld Chiriac
  • Dennis Hasselquist
Publishing year: 2013
Language: English
Pages: 333-345
Publication/Series: Physiological and Biochemical Zoology
Volume: 86
Issue: 3
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract english

Permanent offspring modification through maternal hormone transfer is thought to be a tool for mothers to influence life-history trajectories of individual offspring. In birds, yolk hormones influence numerous aspects of the offspring's physiology, including antioxidant status, an important physiological measure that is linked to growth, reproductive effort, and survival. While it is evident that yolk hormones can affect antioxidant status of nestlings, it is not known whether their effect extends beyond the nestling stage. In this study, we use the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) to test experimentally whether exposure to elevated yolk testosterone (T) levels can result in long-term effects on antioxidant status and traits likely to be associated with this measure. Our data show a significant but sex-specific effect with respect to a period from fledging to the age of 7 mo; T males had higher antioxidant status than control males, whereas antioxidant levels did not differ among females and were intermediate compared with the two male groups. Bill color, a trait associated with carotenoids (a specific group of antioxidants) and known to be under the control of circulating levels of T, was not affected by our yolk T manipulation. Bill color (alone or in covariation with egg treatment or sex) did not predict immune responsiveness or antioxidant status. Moreover, there was only weak evidence that antioxidant status predicted the strength of different immune responses. Antioxidant status (in covariation with egg treatment and sex) predicted levels of circulating total antibody levels but did not predict the strength of cell-mediated and humoral immune responses. Our results suggest that yolk T affects antioxidant status independently of these other traits.


  • Biological Sciences


  • Immunoecology
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1522-2152
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Jacob Roved

PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"