Yolk testosterone modulates persistence of neophobic responses in adult zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Individual differences in animal behavior can be attributed to genetic as well as non-genetic influences. One mechanism by which the behavioral phenotype of an individual can be shaped is via transmission of maternal sex steroids. In this study, we examined the role of yolk testosterone (T) in controlling neophobia in 9-month-old, sexually mature zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Offspring hatched from either T-treated or control eggs were subjected to a sequential series of behavioral tests in which we measured the neophobic response and its persistence towards two unfamiliar stimuli. Birds from T-treated and control eggs did not differ in their latencies to approach and eat a novel food source during their first encounter. However, egg treatment affected subsequent habituation. Latencies decreased in both groups over a habituation period of 5 days, but considerably more so in T-offspring. Although males appeared to approach novel food faster than females, there was no overall sex effect during the habituation period. When a novel object was added in combination with the previously learned food stimulus, this caused an behavioral shift in approach latencies. In males, control offspring had significantly shorter latencies than T-offspring, whereas there was no difference among females. The latency to eat in the same test was not significantly affected by sex or egg treatment. Our results demonstrate long-term effects of prenatal T on neophobic responses in adult zebra finches. We hypothesize that prenatal T may be one underlying mechanism for individual differences routine formation. (C) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences


  • neophobia, testosterone, maternal effects, behavioral development
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-645
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch