Year-class differences in the reproductive system, plasma prolactin and corticosterone concentrations, and onset of prebasic molt in male dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) during the breeding period
Deviche, P.; Wingfield, J.C.; Sharp, P.J.
General and Comparative Endocrinology 118(3): 425-435
ISSN/ISBN: 0016-6480 PMID: 10843794 DOI: 10.1006/gcen.2000.7478
Year-class differences in reproductive function were investigated in a free-living population of adult male Dark-eyed Juncos, Junco hyemalis, breeding in interior Alaska. Second-year males (SY, entering their first breeding season) were compared with after-second-year males (ASY, entering at least their second breeding season). We measured body mass, size of the cloacal protuberance (CP), testis mass, onset of prebasic molt, and concentrations of plasma luteinizing hormone (LH), testosterone (T), corticosterone (CORT), and prolactin (PRL) throughout the reproductive season (April to mid-July). There were no differences in SY and ASY body weights but SY males had smaller CPs and testis masses than ASY males during gonadal recrudescence and at the end of the breeding season. Plasma LH was elevated from April until mid-June and then decreased in the same way in both year classes. In contrast, plasma T was high from April until mid-May and was lower in SY than in ASY juncos shortly after they arrived on their breeding grounds at the end of April, but not at other times. In July, SY males started to molt earlier, suggesting that they became photorefractory earlier than ASY males. Plasma PRL increased progressively in both year classes between April and early June and decreased in early July. At this time, plasma PRL decreased earlier in SY than in ASY males. Plasma CORT changed seasonally, but did not differ between SY and ASY juncos. Thus, year-class differences in CP sizes and testis mass apparently did not result from SY males secreting less LH or more PRL or CORT than ASY males. It is suggested that differences in reproductive condition in SY and ASY juncos are mediated by interactions with conspecific birds and do not result from an intrinsic effect of age.