The timing of reproduction varies from year to year in many bird species. To adjust their timing to the prevailing conditions of that year, birds use cues from their environment. However, the relative importance of these cues, such as the initial predictive (e. g. photoperiod) and the supplemental factors (e. g. temperature), on the seasonal sexual development are difficult to distinguish. In particular, the fine-tuning effect of temperature on gonadal growth is not well known. One way temperature may affect timing is via its strong effect on energy expenditure as gonadal growth is an energy-demanding process. To study the interaction of photoperiod and temperature on gonadal development, we first exposed 35 individually housed male great tits (Parus major) to mid-long days (after 6 weeks of 8h L:16 h D at 15 degrees C, photoperiod was set to 13h L:11 h D at 15 degrees C). Two weeks later, for half of the males the temperature was set to 8 degrees C, and for the other half t! o 22 degrees C. Unilateral laparotomies were performed at weeks 5 (i.e one week before the birds were transferred to mid-long days), 8 and 11 to measure testis size. Two measures of basal metabolic rate (BMR) were performed at the end of the experiment (weeks 11 and 12). Testis size increased significantly during the course of the experiment, but independently of the temperature treatment. BMR was significantly higher in birds exposed to the cold treatment. These results show that temperature-related elevation of BMR did not impair the long-day-induced testis growth in great tits. As a consequence, temperature may not be a crucial cue and/or constraint factor in the fine-tuning of the gonadal recrudescence in male great tits, and testis growth is not a high energy-demanding seasonal process.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Journal publication date2009

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