Circulating breeding and pre-breeding prolactin and LH are not associated with clutch size in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

Ryan, Calen P.; Dawson, Alistair; Sharp, Peter J.; Meddle, Simone L.; Williams, Tony D.. 2014 Circulating breeding and pre-breeding prolactin and LH are not associated with clutch size in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). General and Comparative Endocrinology, 202. 26-34.

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Clutch size is a fundamental predictor of avian fitness, widely-studied from evolutionary and ecological perspectives, but surprisingly little is known about the physiological mechanisms regulating clutch size variation. The only formal mechanistic hypothesis for avian clutch-size determination predicts an anti-gonadal effect of circulating prolactin PRL) via the inhibition of luteinizing hormone (LH), and has become widely-accepted despite little experimental support. Here we investigated the relationship between pre-breeding and breeding plasma PRL and LH and clutch-size in captive-breeding female 9 zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Using a repeated-measures design, we followed individual females from pre-breeding, through multiple breeding attempts, and attempted to decrease PRL using the D2-receptor agonist, bromocriptine. Clutch size was independent of variation in pre-breeding PRL or LH, although pre-breeding LH was negatively correlated with the time between pairing and the onset of laying. Clutch size was independent of variation in plasma PRL on all days of egg-laying. Bromocriptine treatment had no effect on plasma PRL, but in this breeding attempt clutch size was also independent of plasma PRL. Finally, we found no evidence for an inverse relationship between plasma PRL and LH levels, as predicted if PRL had inhibitory effects via LH. Thus, our data fail to provide any support for the involvement of circulating PRL in clutch size determination. These findings suggest that alternative models for hormonal control of avian clutch size need to be considered, perhaps involving downstream regulation of plasma PRL at the level of the ovary, or other hormones that have not been considered to date.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Watt
ISSN: 0016-6480
Additional Keywords: prolactin, clutch size, luteinizing hormone, life history, avian reproduction, plasticity
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 04 Jul 2014 10:04 +0 (UTC)

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