Evolution of hormone-trait connections

staff members: Kamiel Spoelstra (NIOO), Serge Daan (U Groningen), Andrew Loudon (U Manchester), Martin Wikelski (Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie).

Hormones are powerful interal signals. They have pleiotropic effects on behavior, physiology and morphology and regulate major transitions between phases of the annual cycle in animals. These actions make hormones ideal candidates for mediating life history trade-offs. Are these trade-offs present, and regulated by similar physiological pathways in different populations, or have there been evolutionary changes in the linkage between hormones and traits such that hormones might mediate trade-offs in different ways in different populations?
Using descriptive and experimental approaches we are exploring the linkage between the hormones testosterone and corticosterone with behavior and physiology in various bird species that differ in crucial aspects of their life history. We are conducting these studies in the context of several theories on the evolutionary linkage between hormones and traits (for example see Fig below).

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