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Early spring sex differences in luteinizing hormone response to gonadotropin releasing hormone in co-occurring resident and migrant dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Timothy Grieves
  • Adam Fudickar
  • Jonathan Atwell
  • Simone Meddle
  • Ellen Ketterson

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    Rights statement: © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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    Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution (CC-BY)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-23
JournalGeneral And Comparative Endocrinology
Early online date29 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2016


To optimally time reproduction, animals must coordinate changes in the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. The extent of intra-species variation in seasonal timing of reproductive function is considerable, both within and among populations. Dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) populations are known to differ in their reproductive timing response to cues experienced in the same habitat in late winter/early spring. Specifically in juncos cohabitating on shared wintering grounds, residents initiate breeding and reproductive activity but migrants delay reproductive development and prepare to migrate before breeding. Here, we test the hypothesis that the pituitary gland acts as a ‘control point’ to modulate differential HPG axis activity across populations. We sampled free-living resident and migrant juncos on their shared over-wintering grounds in March, thus all individuals were experiencing the same environmental cues, including photoperiod. We predicted that during this critical time of transition, residents would more readily respond to repeated gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulation with increases in luteinizing hormone (LH), in contrast to migrants, which should delay full reproductive activity. Our data indicate that migrant females, while still on the overwintering grounds, have a
reduced LH response to repeated GnRH injections compared to resident females. Male migrant and resident birds did not differ in their responsiveness to repeated GnRH. Our results suggest a sex difference in the costs of mistimed activation
of the HPG axis, with female migrants being less responsive than residents females and males to repeated stimulation. Further, our data implicate a key role for the pituitary in regulating appropriate reproductive timing responses.

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