Most animals experience reproductive transitions in their lives; for example, reaching reproductive maturity or cycling in and out of breeding condition. Some reproductive transitions are abrupt, while others are more gradual. In most cases, changes in communication between the sexes follow the time course of these reproductive transitions and are typically thought to be coordinated by steroid hormones. We know a great deal about hormonal control of communication behaviors in birds and frogs, as well as the central neural control of these behaviors. There has also been significant interest in the effects of steroid hormones on central nervous system structures that control both the production and reception of communication signals associated with reproductive behaviors. However, peripheral sensory structures have typically received less attention, although there has been growing interest in recent years. It is becoming clear that peripheral sensory systems play an important role in reproductive communication, are plastic across reproductive conditions, and, in some cases, this plasticity may be mediated by steroid hormones. In this article, we discuss recent evidence for the role of peripheral auditory structures in reproductive communication in birds and frogs, the plasticity of the peripheral auditory system, and the role of steroid hormones in mediating the effects of the peripheral auditory system on reproductive communication. We focus on both seasonal and acute reproductive transitions, introduce new data on the role of hormones in modulating seasonal patterns, and make recommendations for future work.
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