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The role of uropygial gland on sexual behavior in domestic chicken Gallus gallus domesticus.

Research paper by Atsushi A Hirao, Masato M Aoyama, Shoei S Sugita

Indexed on: 18 Nov '08Published on: 18 Nov '08Published in: Behavioural Processes



Abstract

Recent studies have indicated that avian social behavior is influenced by olfactory cues. During the reproductive season a change in the chemical composition of uropygial gland secretion has been reported in some species and the hypothesis that olfactory signals may be produced by this gland has been proposed. To examine this hypothesis we performed two behavioral experiments to determine whether a female's uropygial gland produces chemical signals that stimulate mating behaviors in domestic chickens. In Experiment 1 the role of the female's uropygial gland in male mating behavior was examined by removing and examining the female's uropygial gland. The frequency of mounts and copulations of intact male birds with sham-operated female birds was significantly higher than with uropygial glandectomized female birds. With respect to the number of waltzing that is one of the courtship displays intact males showed no significant difference between sham-operated female birds and uropygial glandectomized female birds. In Experiment 2 the relationship between male olfaction and the female's uropygial gland was investigated using olfactory bulbectomized male birds. The number of mounts and copulations of sham-operated male birds with sham-operated female bird was significantly higher than with uropygial glandectomized female birds. In contrast olfactory bulbectomized male birds showed no significant differences in the number of mounts and copulations between sham-operated female birds and uropygial glandectomized female birds. These results indicate that intact and sham-operated male birds prefer to mate with female birds with the uropygial gland. The number of courtship waltzing of sham-operated male birds showed no significant difference. However olfactory bulbectomized male birds significantly courted to uropygial glandectomized female birds. Summarizing our results show that while anosmic males did not have any preference, both intact and sham-operated male birds chose to mate with female birds having an intact uropygial gland, suggesting that mate preference involves in male olfaction and that the female's uropygial gland acts as a source of social odor cues in domestic chickens.