Uncoupling clutch size, prolactin, and luteinizing hormone using experimental egg removal

Ryan, Calen P.; Dawson, Alistair; Sharp, Peter J.; Williams, Tony D.. 2015 Uncoupling clutch size, prolactin, and luteinizing hormone using experimental egg removal. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 213. 1-8.

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Clutch size is a key avian fitness and life history trait. A physiological model for clutch size determination CSD), involving an anti-gonadal effect of prolactin (PRL) via suppression of luteinizing hormone (LH),was proposed over 20 years ago, but has received scant experimental attention since. The few studies looking at a PRL-based mechanistic hypothesis for CSD have been equivocal, but recent experiments utilizing a pharmacological agent to manipulate PRL in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) found no support for a role of this hormone in clutch size determination. Here, we take a complementary approach by manipulating clutch size through egg removal, examining co-variation in PRL and LH between two breeding attempts, as well as through experimentally-extended laying. Clutch size increased for egg removal females, but not controls, but this was not correlated with changes in PRL or LH. There were also no differences in PRL between egg removal females and controls, nor did PRL levels during early, mid- or late-laying of supra-normal clutches predict clutch size. By uncoupling PRL, LH and clutch size in our study, several key predictions of the PRL-based mechanistic model for CSD were not supported. However,a positive correlation between PRL levels late in laying and days relative to the last egg (clutch completion) provides an alternative explanation for the equivocal results surrounding the conventional PRL-based physiological model for CSD. We suggest that females coordinate PRL-mediated incubation onset with clutch completion to minimize hatching asynchrony and sibling hierarchy, a behavior that is amplified in females laying larger clutches.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Watt
ISSN: 0016-6480
Additional Keywords: clutch size, prolactin, luteinizing hormone, avian reproduction, egg removal
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 16 Jun 2015 14:08 +0 (UTC)

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