Masculinized otoacoustic emissions in female spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta)

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Abstract

In humans and rhesus monkeys, click-evoked otoacoustic emissions (CEOAEs) are stronger in females than in males, and there is considerable circumstantial evidence that this sex difference is attributable to the greater exposure to androgens prenatally in males. Because female spotted hyenas are highly androgenized beginning early in prenatal development, we expected an absence of sexual dimorphism in the CEOAEs of this species. The CEOAEs obtained from 9 male and 7 female spotted hyenas confirmed that expectation. The implication is that the marked androgenization to which female spotted hyenas are exposed masculinizes the cochlear mechanism responsible for CEOAEs. The CEOAEs measured in 3 male and 3 female hyenas that had been treated with anti-androgenic agents during prenatal development were stronger than the CEOAEs of the untreated animals, in accord with the implied inverse relationship between prenatal androgen exposure and the strength of the cochlear mechanisms producing CEOAEs. The CEOAEs of three ovariectomized females and two castrated males were essentially the same as those for the untreated females and males, suggesting that there is little or no activational effect of hormones on CEOAE strength in spotted hyenas. Distortion product OAEs (DPOAEs) also were measured. Those sex differences also were generally small (as they are in humans), and the effects of the anti-androgen agents were inconsistent. Thus, prenatal androgen exposure apparently does affect OAEs, but the effects appear to be greater for the reflection-based cochlear mechanism that underlies CEOAEs than for the nonlinear cochlear mechanism underlying DPOAEs.

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