Seasonal and individual variation in response to GnRH challenge in male dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis)

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2006 Nov;149(2):182-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2006.05.013. Epub 2006 Jul 11.


Concentrations of gonadal steroids such as testosterone (T) often vary widely in natural populations, but the causes and particularly the consistency of this variation is relatively unexplored. In breeding males of a wild population of the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), we investigated seasonal and individual variation in circulating T during two breeding seasons by measuring the responsiveness of the HPG axis to a standardized injection of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Individuals were bled prior to and 30min after injection. Pre- and post-challenge levels of T were measured using EIA. Many subjects were sampled repeatedly across multiple breeding stages. Plasma T concentrations nearly doubled in response to GnRH during early spring, but showed significantly smaller increases in later breeding stages. When controlling for seasonal variation in response to challenge, we also found repeatable differences among individuals, indicating individual consistency in the release of T in response to a standardized stimulus. These seasonal and individual differences may arise from comparable variation in responsiveness of the pituitary or a decline in gonadal sensitivity to downstream gonadotropins. In contrast, pre-challenge T showed almost no seasonal changes and did not differ consistently among individuals. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of individual repeatability of short-term hormonal changes in a wild population. Such repeatability suggests that hormonal plasticity might evolve in response to changing selection pressures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Body Size
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / pharmacology*
  • Handling, Psychological
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques / standards
  • Linear Models
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Pituitary Gland / drug effects*
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Seasons*
  • Songbirds / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Testosterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone