Effects of testosterone implants on pair behaviour during incubation in the Yellow‐legged Gull Larus cachinnans

Alonso‐Alvarez, C., 2001. Effects of testosterone implants on pair behaviour during incubation in the Yellow‐legged Gull Larus cachinnans. Journal of Avian Biology, 32(4), pp.326-332.


The Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans is monogamous with bi-parental incubation. In this study, the effects of high levels of plasma testosterone in male Yellow-legged Gulls during the incubation period were analysed. Free-living male gulls were implanted with testosterone (T-males), and their sexual behaviour within the pair was observed and compared with that of control pairs. Egg temperatures, length of incubation and hatching success were also analysed. T-males and their mates displayed more sexual behaviour than the controls. T-males engaged in mounting behaviour with their mates, whereas control males did not. Proportionally less time was spent incubating (in relation to time present in the colony) by T-males than control males. However, the mates of T-males did not spend more time incubating than control females to compensate for male neglect, although they did spend more time on the territory. Egg temperature in T-male nests was significantly lower than in control nests, but no significant difference in the length of incubation or hatching success between the two groups was found. In birds, the effects of high testosterone levels on male behaviour during incubation have only been analysed in a polyandrous species whose females usually do not contribute to incubation. The present results thus suggest that those males of a monogamous species with biparental incubation that sustain high testosterone levels after laying, thus reducing their contributions to incubation, will be confronted with a lack of compensation from their mates during incubation. Finally, this lack of female compensation seems to be mediated by behavioural interactions with the male rather than by her absence
from the colony.

Changes in plasma biochemistry and body mass during incubation in the yellow-legged gull

Alonso-Alvarez, C., Velando, A., Ferrer, M. & Veira, J. A. Changes in plasma biochemistry and body mass during incubation in the yellow-legged gull. Waterbirds 25, 253–258 (2002).


The “Incubatory Reserves Constancy” hypothesis asserts that incubation could be a departure from breeding stress that allows for the maintenance or recovery of body reserves after laying effort (females) or territory defense (males) in those species with bi-parental incubation such as gulls. The plasma composition and body mass of incubating Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus cachinnans) were analyzed and related to the number of days after egg-laying. Female gulls showed an increase in uric acid and cholesterol levels, whereas males showed only an increase in uric acid values throughout this period. Moreover, females increased while males maintained their body masses. These results could reflect a recovery process after the laying effort supporting the Incubatory Reserves Constancy hypothesis in females. Uric acid and urea levels are positively correlated to body condition in Yellow-legged Gulls, which could be the result of a change in diet composition. This disagrees with recent findings on body composition in incubating gulls and could be related to variations in food availability among populations or years, and could reflect flexibility in the investment devoted by each sex.