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Many animals engage in spectacular courtship displays, likely recruiting specialized neural, hormonal and muscular systems to facilitate these performances. Male golden-collared manakins (Manacus vitellinus) of Panamanian rainforests perform physically elaborate courtship displays that include novel forms of visual and acoustic signaling. We study the behavioral neuroendocrinology of this male"s courtship, combining field behavioral observations with anatomical, biochemical and molecular laboratory-based studies. Seasonally, male courtship is activated by testosterone with little correspondence between testosterone levels and display intensity. Females prefer males whose displays are exceptionally frequent, fast and accurate. The activation of androgen receptors (AR) is crucial for optimal display performance, with AR expressed at elevated levels in several neuromuscular tissues. Apparently, courtship enlists an elaborate androgen-dependent network that includes spinal motoneurons, skeletal muscles and somatosensory systems. This work highlights the value of studying non-traditional species to illuminate physiological adaptations and, hopefully, stimulates future research on other species with complex behaviors.
3-Oxo-5-alpha-Steroid 4-Dehydrogenase/metabolism Androgen Receptor Antagonists/pharmacology Animals Aromatase/metabolism Brain/physiology Courtship* Estrogens/physiology Female Flutamide/pharmacology Male Motor Neurons/physiology Muscle, Skeletal/physiology* Neuroendocrinology Passeriformes/physiology* Receptors, Androgen/physiology Seasons Sexual Behavior, Animal/drug effects Sexual Behavior, Animal/physiology Spinal Cord/physiology Testosterone/physiology* Vocalization, Animal/physiology