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Experimental evidence for genetic heritability of maternal hormone transfer to offspring

Okuliarova, M., Groothuis, T. G. G., Skrobanek, P. & Zeman, M., Jun-2011, In : American Naturalist. 177, 6, p. 824-834 11 p.

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In many animal species, embryos are exposed to maternal hormones that affect their development. Maternal hormone transfer varies with environmental conditions of the mother and is often interpreted as being shaped by natural selection to adjust the offspring to prevailing environmental conditions. Such hormone transfer requires genetic variability, which has not yet been experimentally demonstrated. Our study reports direct evidence for additive genetic variance of maternal androgens through a bidirectional selection on yolk testosterone (T) levels in Japanese quail. Lines selected for high egg T (HET) and low egg T (LET) concentration differed in yolk levels of this androgen, resulting in high realized heritability (h(2) = 0.42). Correlated responses to selection on other gonadal hormones indicated that selection specifically targeted biologically active androgens. Eggs of HET quail contained higher androstenedione and lower estradiol concentrations than did those of LET quail, with no line differences in yolk progesterone concentration. Plasma T concentrations in adult females were not affected by selection, seriously challenging the hypothesis that transfer of maternal hormones to offspring is constrained by hormone levels in a mother's circulation. Our results suggest that transfer of maternal T represents an indirect genetic effect that has important consequences for the evolution of traits in offspring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-834
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume177
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2011

    Keywords

  • yolk testosterone, sex steroids, quail, maternal effects, indirect genetic effects, PRENATAL ANDROGEN EXPOSURE, YOLK TESTOSTERONE LEVELS, HEADED GULL CHICKS, JAPANESE-QUAIL, CORTICOSTERONE RESPONSE, SELECTION, EGGS, BEHAVIOR, CONSEQUENCES, DEPOSITION
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  1. Data from: Experimental evidence for genetic heritability of maternal hormone transfer to offspring

    Okuliarova, M. (Creator), Groothuis, A. (Creator), Škrobánek, P. (Creator), Zeman, M. (Creator), University of Groningen, 28-Feb-2011

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