Author(s): Rosvall KA
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Abstract Female-female aggression often functions in competition over reproductive or social benefits, but the proximate mechanisms of this apparently adaptive behaviour are not well understood. The sex steroid hormone testosterone (T) and its metabolites are well-established mediators of male-male aggression, and several lines of evidence suggest that T-mediated mechanisms may apply to females as well. However, a key question is whether mechanisms of female aggression primarily reflect correlated evolutionary responses to selection acting on males, or whether direct selection acting on females has made modifications to these mechanisms that are adaptive in light of female life history. Here, I examine the degree to which female aggression is mediated at the level of T production, target tissue sensitivity to T, or downstream genomic responses in order to test the hypothesis that selection favours mechanisms that facilitate female aggression while minimizing the costs of systemically elevated T. I draw heavily from avian systems, including the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), as well as other organisms in which these mechanisms have been well studied from an evolutionary/ecological perspective in both sexes. Findings reveal that the sexes share many behavioural and hormonal mechanisms, though several patterns also suggest sex-specific adaptation. I argue that greater attention to multiple levels of analysis-from hormone to receptor to gene network, including analyses of individual variation that represents the raw material of evolutionary change-will be a fruitful path for understanding mechanisms of behavioural regulation and intersexual coevolution.
This article was published in Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
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