Relative photorefractoriness, prolactin, and reproductive regression in a flexibly breeding Sonoran desert passerine, the rufous-winged sparrow, Aimophila carpalis

Thomas W. Small, Peter J. Sharp, George E. Bentley, Pierre Deviche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

We tested the hypothesis that adult male rufous-winged sparrows, Aimophila carpalis, exhibit relative photorefractoriness. This condition results in partial loss of sensitivity to photoperiod as a reproductive stimulus after prolonged exposure to long photoperiods and is similar to the mammalian condition called photoperiodic memory. Captive birds were exposed either to 8 h of light/16 h of dark per day (8L) or to 16L for 11 weeks and were then exposed either to 8L, 13L, 14L, or 16L. Testicular diameter, plasma luteinizing hormone (LH), and plasma prolactin (PRL) were measured to assess reproductive system activity in response to photostimulation. In free-living birds, testicular diameter, plasma LH, and PRL were compared in birds caught in September in a year when birds were breeding and in a year when birds were not breeding to further evaluate the role of PRL in the termination of seasonal breeding. Testes completely developed after transfer from 8L to 14L or to 16L and partially developed after transfer from 8L to 13L. However, after 11 weeks of 16L exposure, transfer to 14L caused partial regression and transfer to 13L caused complete regression of the testes. Plasma LH increased in all birds that were transferred from 8L to a longer photoperiod. PRL showed a weak response to longer photoperiod treatment and was elevated in birds after chronic 16L exposure in comparison to birds exposed to chronic 8L. These data indicate that male rufous-winged sparrows lose sensitivity to photoperiod after long photoperiod exposure consistent with the relative photorefractoriness and photoperiodic memory models. Lower PRL in birds that developed testes on 13L and 14L compared to birds that regressed testes on 13L and 14L are consistent with the hypothesis that PRL regulates relative photorefractoriness. However, PRL does not appear to regulate interannual differences in the timing of testicular regression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-80
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2008

Keywords

  • Bird
  • Breeding
  • Luteinizing hormone
  • Opportunism
  • Photoperiod
  • Photorefractory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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