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Journal Articles General and Comparative Endocrinology Year : 2013

Maternal effects in quail and zebra finches: behavior and hormones.


Maternal effects are influences of parents on offspring phenotype occurring through pathways other than inherited DNA. In birds, two important routes for such transmission are parental behavior and non-DNA egg constituents such as yolk hormones. Offspring traits subject to parental effects include behavior and endocrine function. Research from the Adkins-Regan lab has used three avian species to investigate maternal effects related to hormones and behavior. Experiments with chickens and Japanese quail have shown that maternal sex steroids can influence sex determination to produce biased offspring sex ratios. Because all birds have a ZZ/ZW chromosomal sex determining system in which the female parent determines the sex of the offspring, these results raise the possibility that maternal steroids can influence the outcome of sex chromosome meiosis. Learning has been shown to influence egg investment by female quail in ways that are likely to alter offspring phenotype. In quail, embryonic and exogenous sex steroids have well established and long-lasting effects on sexual differentiation of behavior during a critical period in ovo, but elevated yolk testosterone has long-term effects on behavior that do not seem to be occurring through an alteration in sexual differentiation. In biparental zebra finches, removal of mothers alters not only later behavior, but also the adult response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to an environmental stressor, as indicated by plasma corticosterone. Birds raised only by fathers have lower levels of mRNA for both glucocorticoid receptors in several brain regions as adults. These studies add to the evidence that one generation influences the behavioral or endocrine phenotype of the next through routes other than transmission of DNA. Additional research will be required to understand the adaptive significance of these effects.

Dates and versions

hal-00861835 , version 1 (13-09-2013)



Elizabeth Adkins-Regan, Sunayana B. Banerjee, Stephanie M. Correa, Cécile Schweitzer. Maternal effects in quail and zebra finches: behavior and hormones.. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 2013, 190, pp.34-41. ⟨10.1016/j.ygcen.2013.03.002⟩. ⟨hal-00861835⟩
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