Early exposure to steroid hormones, as in the case of an avian embryo exposed yolk testosterone, can impact the biology of an individual in different ways over the course of its life. While many early-life effects of yolk testosterone have been documented, later-life effects remain poorly studied. We followed a cohort of twenty captive pigeons hatched in 2005. Half of these birds came from eggs with experimentally increased concentrations of testosterone; half came from control eggs. Preliminary results suggest non-random mortality during the birds’ first nine years of life. Hitherto, all males have survived, and control females have survived better than testosterone-treated ones. Despite inherent challenges, studies of later-life consequences of early-life exposure in longer-lived species can offer new perspectives that are precluded by studies of immediate outcomes or shorter-lived species.
- maternal effect