Publication Details

Buttemer, W. A., Warne, S., Bech, C. & Astheimer, L. (2008). Testosterone effects on avian basal metabolic rate and aerobic performance: Facts and artefacts. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A: Molecular and Integrative Physiology, 150 (2), 204-210.


We examined the effects of cage size and testosterone (T) levels on basal and peak metabolic rates (BMR and PMR, respectively) and on pectoral and leg muscle masses of male house sparrows (Passer domesticus). Birds were housed either in small birdcages or in flight aviaries for at least 2 weeks prior to the initial metabolic evaluations. They were then implanted with either empty or T-filled silastic capsules and remeasured 5-6 weeks later. Birds treated with single T implants achieved breeding levels (4-6 ng/mL) and one group given double implants reached 10 ng/mL. There was no effect of T on BMR or PMR in any group studied, but there was an effect of caging. Caged birds showed significant reductions in PMR over the course of captivity, whereas PMR in aviary-housed birds were indistinguishable from their free-living counterparts. Testosterone treatment significantly increased leg muscle mass in caged birds, but had no effect on muscle mass in aviary-housed sparrows. We conclude that testosterone has no direct effect on sparrow metabolic rate or muscle mass, but may interact with cage conditions to produce indirect changes to these variables.



Link to publisher version (DOI)