Differentiation of coital behavior in mammals: a comparative analysis

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1979 Winter;3(4):265-84. doi: 10.1016/0149-7634(79)90013-7.


The evidence reviewed suggests that in all mammalian species the adult male's ability to display masculine coital behavior depends in part on exposure of the developing brain to testicular testosterone or its metabolites. In many mammals, particularly rodents, ruminants, and some carnivores, perinatal exposure to androgen also causes behavioral defeminization, i.e., reduced capacity to display typically feminine coital behavior in response to gonadal hormones in adulthood. The data reviewed suggest that no such process occurs in certain other mammalian species, including ferret, rhesus monkey, marmoset, and man. Testicular androgen may cause behavioral defeminization only in those species in which expression of feminine sexual behavior normally depends on the neural action of progesterone, acting synergistically with estradiol; new data support this claim in the ferret. The possible contribution of estrogenic and 5 alpha-reduced androgenic metabolites of testosterone to the occurrence of behavioral masculinization and defeminization is considered in those mammalian species for which data are available.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Callitrichinae
  • Copulation / physiology*
  • Cricetinae
  • Dihydrotestosterone / pharmacology
  • Dogs
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Ferrets
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Sheep
  • Species Specificity*
  • Testosterone / metabolism
  • Testosterone / pharmacology


  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Testosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol