Testosterone promotes paternal behaviour in a monogamous mammal via conversion to oestrogen

Brian C. Trainor, Catherine A. Marler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

146 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although high testosterone (T) levels inhibit paternal behaviour in birds breeding in temperate zones many paternal mammals have a very different breeding biology, characterized by a post-partum oestrus. In species with post-partum oestrus, males may engage in T-dependent behaviours such as aggression and copulation simultaneously with paternal behaviour. We previously found that T promotes paternal behaviour in the California mouse, Peromyscus californicus. We examine whether this effect is mediated by the conversion of T to oestradiol (E2) by aromatase. In the first experiment, gonadectomized males treated with T or E2 implants showed higher levels of huddling and pup grooming behaviour than gonadectomized males treated with dihydrotestosterone or empty implants. In the second experiment, we used an aromatase inhibitor (fadrozole) (FAD) to confirm these results. Gonadectomized males treated with T + vehicle or E2 + FAD showed higher levels of huddling and pup grooming behaviour than gonadectomized males treated with T + FAD or empty implants. Although E2 is known to promote the onset of maternal behaviour to our knowledge our results are the first to demonstrate that E2 can promote paternal behaviour in a paternal mammal. These results may explain how mammals express paternal behaviour while T levels are elevated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-829
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume269
Issue number1493
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 22 2002
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Aromatase
  • Oestrogen
  • Paternal behaviour
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

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