The effects of autumn testosterone on survival and productivity in red grouse, Lagopus lagopus scoticus

Stephen Redpath* (Corresponding Author), F. Mougeot, Fiona M. Leckie, S. A. Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


There are costs and benefits to individuals of having high levels of circulating testosterone, and the costs can be particularly apparent outside the breeding season. Unlike many birds, red grouse have high testosterone levels in autumn and in this study we explored the consequences of variation in autumn testosterone levels, in terms of survival and breeding success. We caught 123 male grouse in September, from six sites in Scotland and England, U.K. Grouse were given either testosterone or control implants, then fitted with radiotransmitters and released. Control males tended to survive better, but the difference was not statistically significant. During the first 3 months, cause of mortality varied with treatment, with birds of prey killing only testosterone-implanted birds. In spring, females paired with testosterone-implanted males had larger combs (sexual ornaments) than those with controls, suggesting that they might have been better-quality individuals. Testosterone-implanted birds were more likely to be paired and to be bigamous, and each bird alive in spring produced on average 2.5 more offspring than control birds. The benefits of investing in elevated levels of testosterone are clearly high for those males that survive the winter. However, these benefits are reduced by overwinter mortality and the reproductive success of all males alive at the start of the experiment did not vary statistically with treatment. We discuss the longer-term consequences of high testosterone levels which are likely to be very different to short-term ones. (c) 2006 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1297-1305
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
Early online date18 May 2006
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


  • territorial aggression
  • song sparrows
  • immunocompetence handicap
  • Trichostrongylus tenuis
  • plasma testosterone
  • breeding success
  • mate choice
  • population
  • behavior
  • androgens


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