Dr. Tobiansky and colleagues publish a new article

Submitted by John Spinicchia Director Instructional Support
June 20, 2022 - 1:09 pm

Dr. Daniel Tobiansky (Assistant Professor of Neurobiology) and colleagues recently published an article titled, " Specialized androgen synthesis in skeletal muscles that actuate elaborate social displays" in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The paper uses Downy Woodpeckers to show that a muscle involved in a territorial and sexual display can make their own steroids (e.g., testosterone and estrogens) from scratch instead of relying on the gonads to produce these steroids and the blood to deliver these steroids to the muscle. Specifically, most woodpeckers use their skeletal neck muscles to produce drums – repeated and rapid hammering on a resonant substrate (e.g., dead wood) – which is used as a territorial signal throughout the year. This behavior is reliant on testosterone and estrogens, which are produced by the gonads during the breeding season. In the non-breeding season, however, the gonads regress (become very small) and do not produce gonadal steroids but the birds still perform this territorial display. This ability to produce its own androgens and estrogens increases muscle performance allowing them to drum throughout the year. This work expands our understanding of how steroids are produced throughout the body to optimize important behaviors while avoiding off-target effects of circulating steroid hormones like increases in certain cancers.