Testosterone has a long-term effect on primary sex ratio of first eggs in pigeons-in search of a mechanism

Goerlich, VCD, C.; Schaafsma, S. M.; Groothuis, T. G. G.,  General and Comparative Endocrinology,  163:184-192. 2009.

Despite accumulating evidence that birds, in which females are the heterogametic sex, are able to manipulate primary offspring sex ratio, the underlying mechanism remains elusive. Steroid hormones. which govern female reproduction and are also accumulated by the developing follicle could potentially affect primary sex ratio by differential follicle development in relation to future sex and meiotic drive, or by sex specific influence on oocyte abortion or fertilization. So far, experimental results on the involvement of maternal testosterone (T) in offspring sex manipulation are ambiguous. To investigate the effect of T on primary sex ratio and elucidate underlying mechanisms, we elevated circulating T levels in female homing pigeons (Columba livia). During the course of the experiment females produced three clutches-before and during T implantation, and one year after implant removal. Intriguingly, first eggs, but not second eggs of T females were significantly male biased relative to sham-implanted controls. One year after cessation of the treatment the male bias was still present, indicating long-term effects on female reproductive physiology. T treatment did not affect maternal body condition, nor was body condition correlated with offspring sex ratio. Our data on timing of oviposition, lack of infertile eggs, and yolk weight indicate a possible role for sex specific follicle abortion, perhaps in combination with meiotic drive. However, despite T treatment elevating maternal plasma levels, egg yolk T concentrations did not differ between treatment groups and did not vary with embryo sex, suggesting that yolk T is not involved in meiotic drive. (C) 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.