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Journal Article

No sex difference in yolk steroid concentrations of avian eggs at laying

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Pilz, K. M., Adkins-Regan, E., & Schwabl, H. (2005). No sex difference in yolk steroid concentrations of avian eggs at laying. Biology Letters, 1(3), 318-321. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0321.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-12DF-A
Yolk steroids of maternal origin have been proposed to influence genetic sex determination in birds, based on sex differences in yolk steroid concentrations of peafowl eggs incubated for 10 days. More recent reports dispute this proposal, as yolk steroids in eggs incubated for 3 days do not show such sex differences. To date, research examining this phenomenon has only analysed incubated eggs, although sex in avian species is determined before incubation begins. This may be a serious methodological flaw because incubation probably affects yolk steroid concentrations. Therefore, we investigated sex differences in yolk steroid concentrations of unincubated avian eggs. We withdrew yolk for steroid analysis from fresh, unincubated Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) eggs by biopsy, and then incubated those eggs for 10 days, after which we harvested the embryonic material for genetic sexing and the incubated yolk for further steroid analysis. We found no sex differences in fresh Japanese quail eggs; however, sex differences were apparent in yolk steroids by day 10 of incubation, when female eggs had significantly more oestrogen in relation to androgen than male eggs. Concentrations of all yolk androgens decreased dramatically between laying and day 10 of incubation, whereas oestradiol (E2) concentrations increased marginally. Thus, yolk concentrations of androgens and E2 do not appear critical for avian sex determination.