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Avian Biology Research - Special Issue on General and Comparative Endocrinology

Posted on 19. February, 2014.

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Dr. Mary Ann Ottinger, Editor of Avian Biology Research, introduces a special issue on general and comparative endocrinology.

It is with great pleasure and admiration that I introduce the outstanding researchers that have provided papers for this special issue. These papers are based on presentations made at The International Avian Endocrinology Symposium (ISAE), a meeting that has been held every four years. These presentations were made at the 10th ISAE held in Gifu, Japan in 2012. Further, the papers in this special issue represent a subset of broad spectrum of topics considered at the meeting, spanning excellent presentations on molecular endocrine processes to consideration of the expression of these endocrine and neuroendocrine processes in both laboratory birds as well as studies of wild avian populations. The specific papers in this issue include excellent contributions by the following authors and their collaborators. 

The special issue begins with the paper by Zandong Li and colleagues in which they examine the technical challenges for producing chimeric birds. This review considers several species in the context of the timing, efficacy, and technical requirements for achieving successful production of chimeric birds. The significance of being able to produce chimeric birds would allow the insertion of selected genes into germline chimeras. The challenge is that the avian embryo is already quite advanced at the time of egg laying. As such, the ability to improve the efficiency of producing chimeras would have great application for domestic species and in conservation efforts. See their review entitled “A review of strategies of producing chimeric birds” in this issue. 

Kenta Suzuki et al. address the question of genetic factors that influence the development of complex song. The response to stress and the induction of stress hormones may impact song complexity and reflect male quality. The complementary study of White-Backed Munias provides an interesting comparison of species that have differing stress based responses. Please see their paper entitled “Complex song development and stress hormone levels in the Bengalese Finch: a review” for more insights into this fascinating behavioral developmental paradigm. 

Two papers presented by Michal Zeman and his colleagues address the role of embryonic exposure to maternally 
deposited hormones. In the paper authored by Okuliarova, Kankova, Skrobanek and Zeman, the authors consider the 
selection pressures on testosterone concentrations in the yolk. They report that deliberate selection for deposition of increased yolk testosterone over five generations yielded a clear correlation of plasma testosterone and estradiol in females in the upward direction; however, there was a limited correlation for selection in the downward direction. This is a fascinating finding with implication for the embryonic influences of steroid exposure and effects of these early exposures on later growth and physiological status of the offspring. See “Response of yolk testosterone content to bidirectional selection in Japanese Quail” for more information. 

In their second paper entitled “Selection for high egg testosterone content does not limit immune response of young Japanese Quail under mild food restriction”, Kankova, Zeman and Okuliarova 
test the hypothesis that embryonic androgens affect the immune system of the offspring. In addition to ascertaining embryonic impacts of androgens on immune function, the authors also subject the birds to the stress from food restriction. Together, their study investigates the elegant trade off between nutritional stressors and embryonic factors that impact immune and metabolic function.

Lies Franssens and her colleagues (Buyse, Decuypere and Everaert) explore the role of the pancreas in modulating 
circulating insulin concentration. They investigate the comparative responses of embryonic and post hatch chicks and discuss the issue of insulin resistance. See their paper entitled “The relationship between glucose and pancreatic hormones during the embryonic and neonatal phase in chickens” for exquisite detail on this important topic.

Photograph: Beautiful chocolate brown species of Bengalese or Society Finch, Colette3/

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