Developmental stress selectively affects the song control nucleus HVC in the zebra finch

K L Buchanan, S Leitner, K A Spencer, A R Goldsmith, C K Catchpole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Songbirds sing complex songs as a result of evolution through sexual selection. The evolution of such sexually selected traits requires genetic control, as well as selection on their expression. Song is controlled by a discrete neural pathway in the brain, and song complexity has been shown to correlate with the volume of specific song control nuclei. As such, the development of these nuclei, in particular the high vocal centre (HVC), is thought to be the mechanism controlling signal expression indicating male quality. We tested the hypothesis that early developmental stress selectively affects adult HVC size, compared with other brain nuclei. We did this by raising cross-fostered zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) under stressed and controlled conditions and determining the effect on adult HVC size. Our results confirm the strong influence of environmental conditions, particularly on HVC development, and therefore on the expression of complex songs. The results also show that both environmental and genetic factors affect the development of several brain nuclei, highlighting the developmental plasticity of the songbird brain. In all, these results explain how the complex song repertoires of songbirds can evolve as honest indicators of male quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2381-2386
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
Volume271
Issue number1555
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2004

Keywords

  • song
  • neural development
  • stress
  • Taeniopygia guttata
  • sexual selection
  • songbird
  • RECEPTOR MESSENGER-RNA
  • TAENIOPYGIA-GUTTATA
  • ESTROGEN-RECEPTOR
  • SEXUAL SELECTION
  • NEURON NUMBER
  • HONEST SIGNAL
  • MATE CHOICE
  • GOOD GENES
  • BIRD SONG
  • BRAIN

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