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Changes in Territorial Defense Produced By Changes in Circulating Levels of Testosterone: a Possible Hormonal Basis for Mate-Guarding Behavior in White-Crowned Sparrows

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Circulating levels of testosterone in male white-crowned sparrows increase when their mates are sexually receptive. Two experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that this increase in circulating levels of testosterone results in an increase in the intensity of male territorial defense. The first experiment demonstrated that males with sexually receptive females are more aggressive than males with nonreceptive females under laboratory conditions. The second experiment, conducted in the field, confirmed the laboratory finding and also demonstrated that experimental elevation of plasma levels of testosterone results in increased territorial defense. Thus, male territorial behavior in white-crowned sparrows appears to be regulated by changes in circulating levels of testosterone. The fact that this results in males being most aggressive when their mates are sexually receptive suggests that this response functions as mate-guarding behavior.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Zoology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 98195, U.S.A.

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