[en] testosterone ; bird ; testes ; song nuclei ; season ; blue tit ; Parus caeruleus ; Mediterranean ; reproduction ; population
[en] Analyses of the development of the reproductive system in seasonally breeding birds in the framework of long-term ecological studies are rare. Here, we present the first results of such a study in two Corsican populations of a European passerine bird, the blue tit (Parus caeruleus). The two study populations occupy different oak habitats and are separated by only 25 km. Despite their close proximity, they show a one-month difference in onset of egg laying, even after controlling for altitude. This micro-geographic difference in breeding date appears adaptive because both study populations raise chicks when food is most plentiful. In our study, males reached their maximum song activity during the egg-laying stage while maximal testosterone levels and testes sizes were reached 2-3 weeks before egg laying. The rate of development of the reproductive system in males was much faster in the earlier population, in spite of a similar onset of gonad development and song activity for the two study populations. No change in the volume of the song-control nuclei (HVC and RA) could be detected during the study period. Development of brain nuclei was completed 2-3 months before the beginning of intense sexual activity. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.