Response to gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) depends on social environment, but not color polymorphism in the Goulidan finch (Erythrura gouldiae) (#93)
Circulating testosterone (T) levels are associated with social environment and season, but also with individual differences in trait expression and life-history strategy. In species with genetic polymorphisms, individual differences in trait expression and strategy have been exaggerated to separate morphs. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone is a neuropeptide released by the hypothalamus that stimulates the release of testosterone by the gonads. There are individual differences in how much T is released in response to an experimental surge of GnRH (a GnRH challenge), and these differences are associated with differences in trait expression. Currently, it is unclear whether social environment and morph differences in T levels are due to perception (i.e. differences in GnRH secretion), or differences in how the gonads respond to GnRH. We begin to address this broad issue by examining the effect of morph and social environment in captive male Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae). Goulidan finches are genetically polymorphic; morphs differ in color and behavior, and these differences are associated with differences in circulating T levels. We examined T levels before and after a GnRH challenge in three different social environments to determine how social environment effects T produced in response to GnRH and whether there are morph differences in that response. We found that social environment significantly influenced T levels before and after a GnRH challenge, but the direction of these differences changed across breeding stage. However, there were no morph differences in the amount of T produced in response to GnRH. Together, these results illustrate that social environment can influence the ability of the gonads to respond to stimulus from the brain. Further, the lack of morph differences suggests that observed morph differences in circulating T levels may be due to differences in perception rather than differences in gonad function or sensitivity (e.g. receptor density).