Evaluating testosterone as a phenotypic integrator: From tissues to individuals to species.

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Hormones have the potential to bring about rapid phenotypic change; however, they are highly conserved over millions of years of evolution. Here, we examine the evolution of hormone-mediated phenotypes, and the extent to which regulation is achieved via independence or integration of the many components of endocrine systems. We focus on the sex steroid testosterone (T), its cognate receptor (androgen receptor) and related endocrine components. We pose predictions about the mechanisms underlying phenotypic integration, including coordinated sensitivity to T within and among tissues and along the HPG axis. We then assess these predictions with case studies from wild birds, asking whether gene expression related to androgenic signaling naturally co-varies among individuals in ways that would promote phenotypic integration. Finally, we review how mechanisms of integration and independence vary over developmental or evolutionary time, and we find limited support for integration.





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Lipshutz, SE, EM George, AB Bentz and KA Rosvall (2019). Evaluating testosterone as a phenotypic integrator: From tissues to individuals to species. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 496. p. 110531. 10.1016/j.mce.2019.110531 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/28449.

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Sara E Lipshutz

Assistant Professor of Biology

Our research focuses on the evolution of behavior across weird and wonderfully diverse species of birds. This work bridges “muddy boots” experimental fieldwork with a variety of molecular and computational approaches in genetics, genomics, neuroscience, and endocrinology. We have several research foci:  


1. Female perspectives in biology. Cultural biases shape our predictions for how and why animals behave the way they do, and female animals have historically been neglected in biological research. We study the evolution of female competition across diverse avian species, ranging from social polyandry to monogamy in shorebirds and songbirds. Critically, hypotheses derived from studying males (i.e. testosterone focus) do not explain interspecific variation in female aggression. We use population genomic and transcriptomic data to evaluate the proximate causes and ultimate consequences of female competition.  


2. Global change biology. In the age of the Anthropocene, animals are facing evolutionary unprecedented environmental changes. Sensory pollutants like anthropogenic noise and artificial light at night can alter animal physiology, behavior, and ecology on a rapid timescale. Behavior flexibility and adaptation may lead the way in helping animals respond to novel challenges. We investigate why some individuals and species may be better prepared to face global change.  

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