Males of a single-brooded tropical bird species do not show increases in testosterone during social challenges

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The challenge hypothesis poses that in socially monogamous vertebrates, males increase circulating testosterone in response to aggressive challenges to promote intense and persistent aggression. However, in bird species that raise only a single brood during short breeding seasons as well as those with essential male parental care, males lack the well-documented testosterone response to social challenges. We tested male behavioral and hormonal responses to social challenges in a neotropical bird species, the buff-breasted wren (Thryothorus leucotis), which is single-brooded with extensive male parental care, but in contrast to most species studied to date, has a long breeding season. We presented live female, male, and paired decoys with song playback for 30 min during pre-breeding and breeding periods. Males responded aggressively to all intruders, but male decoys elicited somewhat weaker responses overall. Responses to female decoys were most intense during pre-breeding, whereas pair decoys elicited stronger responses at breeding. Plasma testosterone concentrations did not differ between challenged and unchallenged males, or among males exposed to different decoys or during different seasons. Plasma corticosterone in pre-breeding males was higher in challenged than unchallenged males and varied positively with the duration of social challenge. Circulating dehydroepiandrosterone concentrations were similar in challenged and unchallenged males, but correlated positively with the proportion of time males spent in close proximity to the decoy. Both testosterone and corticosterone results support recent findings, suggesting that brood number and essential male care, but not breeding-season length, may be important determinants of male hormonal responsiveness during aggressive interactions.

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