Effects of dispersal status on pituitary and gonadal function in the male spotted hyena

Horm Behav. 2003 Dec;44(5):385-94. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2003.06.003.


Male spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) reach puberty at 24 months of age and then usually emigrate from their natal clans one to 52 months later. Recent work has shown that reproductive success is very low among adult males still residing in their natal groups, and it is similarly low among recent or "short-term" immigrants. Long-term immigrants father the vast majority of cubs born. Here we inquired whether these differences in reproductive success might be associated with variation among males in pituitary or gonadal function. In one free-living hyena population in Kenya, we compared baseline levels of plasma luteinizing hormone (LH) and testosterone (T) among adult natal males, short-term immigrants, and long-term immigrants, and we also compared their pituitary and gonadal responses to GnRH challenge. Mean basal plasma LH values did not differ among groups, but mean basal T concentrations in long-term immigrants were higher than those in either natal males or short-term immigrants. Similarly, pituitary response to GnRH challenge did not vary significantly among groups, but testicular response to challenge was greater in long-term immigrants than in natal males or short-term immigrants. Thus adult natal and immigrant males exhibited similar pituitary function but testicular function was attenuated among adult males that had not yet left their natal groups and also among males attempting to become established in new social groups. This suggests that, like the act of emigration itself, the process of social integration during immigration may have important physiological consequences for male mammals transferring between groups.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Carnivora / physiology*
  • Dominance-Subordination
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood*
  • Male
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Testis / physiology*
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Testosterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone