Seasonal and inter-individual variation in testosterone levels in badgers Meles meles: evidence for the existence of two endocrinological phenotypes.
Buesching CD., Heistermann M., Macdonald DW.
Elevated testosterone levels can lower condition and increase parasites. We analysed testosterone in 84 blood samples of wild European badgers Meles meles collected at regular intervals (winter = mating season; spring = end of mating season; summer = minor mating peak; autumn = reproductive quiescence), and related variation to body condition, subcaudal gland secretion, parasite burden, and bite wounding. All males showed elevated levels in winter and low levels in autumn. In neither season did testosterone correlate with fitness-related parameters. However, two different endocrinological phenotypes existed in spring and summer. Whilst some males lowered their testosterone to levels comparable to autumnal quiescence (Type 1), others maintained elevated levels comparable to those during winter (Type 2). In spring and summer high levels were correlated with lower body condition and increased parasite burden, and Type 2 males tended to suffer higher mortality rates than Type 1. No animals older than 6 years adopted phenotype 2, indicating that males either switch phenotypes with age or that Type 2 results in lower life expectancy, evidencing the costs of male reproduction in badgers.