Reproductive endocrinology of macaroni (Eudyptes chrysolophus) and gentoo (Pygoscelis papua) penguins: I. Seasonal changes in plasma level of gonadal steroids and LH in breeding adults
Changes in plasma luteinizing hormone (LH), testosterone, oestradiol, and progesterone were measured throughout the breeding and molt cycle in free-living male and female macaroni (Eudyptes chrysolophus) and gentoo (Pygoscelis papua) penguins, at Bird Island, South Georgia (54°S, 38°W). These two species are sympatric but have a markedly different breeding cycle. In macaroni penguins plasma levels of all hormones, except LH in males, were significantly elevated at the time of arrival at the breeding colony. In both species and sexes plasma LH, testosterone (males), and estradiol (females) levels were highest during nest-building and postcopulation, coincident with the period of frequent agonistic interactions in males and egg-formation in females. Elevated testosterone levels occurred in females of both species during the postcopulation period and may be associated behaviourally with both sexes being involved in nest defence. Male birds also had elevated estradiol levels. Following copulation, plasma levels of LH, testosterone, and estradiol decreased to basal levels in both sexes and species and, except for a transient increase in testosterone in male macaroni penguins, remained low through to the end of molt. There was no associated rise in LH or testosterone during premolt and early molt despite a further period of agonistic and social interaction, suggesting that birds were in a photorefractory state at this time. Plasma progesterone showed a pattern of variation different from that of the other hormones. In both species and sexes, plasma levels were elevated between arrival and early chick-rearing and then decreased slowly to low levels during molt.