We investigated the neuroendocrine changes involved in the transition from incubating eggs to brooding of the young in turkeys. Numbers of mesotocin (MT; the avian analog of mammalian oxytocin) immunoreactive (ir) neurons were higher in the nucleus paraventricularis magnocellularis (PVN) and nucleus supraopticus, pars ventralis (SOv) of late stage incubating hens compared to the layers. When incubating and laying hens were presented with poults, all incubating hens displayed brooding behavior. c-fos mRNA expression was found in several brain areas in brooding hens. The majority of c-fos mRNA expression by MT-ir neurons was observed in the PVN and SOv while the majority of c-fos mRNA expression in dopaminergic (DAergic) neurons was observed in the ventral part of the nucleus preopticus medialis (POM). Following intracerebroventricular injection of DA or oxytocin (OT) receptor antagonists, hens incubating eggs were introduced to poults. Over 80% of those injected with vehicle or the D1 DA receptor antagonist brooded poults, while over 80% of those receiving the D2 DA receptor antagonist or the OT receptor antagonist failed to brood the poults. The D2 DA/OT antagonist groups also displayed less c-fos mRNA in the dorsal part of POM and the medial part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTM) areas than did the D1 DA/vehicle groups. These data indicate that numerous brain areas are activated when incubating hens initially transition to poult brooding behavior. They also indicate that DAergic, through its D2 receptor, and MTergic systems may play a role in regulating brooding behaviors in birds.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project is supported by National Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2007-35203-18072 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture .
- Brooding behavior
- Incubation behavior