Disruption of energy homeostasis by food restriction or high ambient temperature exposure affects gonadal function in male house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Shelley Valle, Daphne Eagleman, Natalie Kieffer, Pierre Deviche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Reproductive success requires that individuals acquire sufficient energy resources. Restricting food availability or increasing energy expenditure (e.g., thermoregulation) inhibits reproductive development in multiple avian species, but the nature of the energy-related signal mediating this effect is unclear. To investigate this question, we examined reproductive and metabolic physiology in male house finches that either underwent moderate food restriction (FR) or were exposed to high temperature (HT), in which birds were held at a high, but not locally atypical, ambient temperature cycle (37.8 °C day, 29.4 °C night) compared to a control group (CT; 29.4 °C day, 21.1 °C night). We hypothesized that FR and HT inhibit reproductive development by lowering available metabolic fuel, in particular plasma glucose (GLU) and free fatty acids (FFA). Following FR for 4 weeks, finches lost body mass, had marginally higher plasma FFA, and experienced a 90% reduction in testis mass compared to CT birds. Four weeks of HT exposure resulted in reduced voluntary food consumption and muscle mass, as well as an 80% reduction in testis mass relative to CT birds. Both FR and HT birds expressed less testicular 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17β-HSD) mRNA than controls but the expression of other testicular genes measured was unaffected by either treatment. Neither treatment significantly influenced plasma GLU. This study is among the first to demonstrate a negative effect of HT on reproductive development in a wild bird. Further studies are needed to clarify the role of metabolic mediators and their involvement under various conditions of energy availability and demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-628
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Energy homeostasis
  • Food restriction
  • Gonads
  • High temperature
  • Metabolite
  • Reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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