Sex differences in brain structure and behaviour are well documented among vertebrates. An excellent model exploring the neural mechanisms of sex differences in behaviour is represented by sex-role-reversed species. In the majority of bird species, males compete over access to mates and resources more strongly than do females. It is thought that the responsible brain regions are therefore more developed in males than in females. Because these behaviours and brain regions are activated by androgens, males usually have increased testosterone levels during breeding. Therefore, in species with sex-role reversal, certain areas of the female brain should be more developed or steroid hormone profiles should be sexually reversed. Here, I studied circulating hormone levels and gene expression of steroid hormone receptors and aromatase in a captive population of barred buttonquails (Turnix suscitator). While females performed courtship and agonistic behaviours, there was no evidence for sexually reversed hormone profiles. However, I found female-biased sex differences in gene expression of androgen receptors in several hypothalamic and limbic brain regions that were already in place at hatching. Such sex differences are not known from non-sex-role-reversed species. These data suggest that increased neural sensitivity to androgens could be involved in the mechanisms mediating sex-role-reversed behaviours.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3573222.
- Received September 6, 2016.
- Accepted October 24, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.