Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters: Sex-specific genetic architecture for fetal testosterone in a wild mammal

Ruth Fishman, Simona Kralj-Fišer, Sivan Marglit, Lee Koren, Yoni Vortman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Testosterone plays a critical role in mediating fitness-related traits in many species. Although it is highly responsive to environmental and social conditions, evidence from several species show a heritable component to its individual variation. Despite the known effects that in utero testosterone exposure have on adult fitness, the heritable component of individual testosterone variation in fetuses is mostly unexplored. Furthermore, testosterone has sex-differential effects on fetal development, i.e., a specific level may be beneficial for male fetuses but detrimental for females, producing sexual conflict. Such sexual conflict may be resolved by the evolution of a sex-specific genetic architecture of the trait. Here, we quantified fetal testosterone levels in a wild species, free-ranging nutrias (Myocastor coypus) using hair-testing and estimated testosterone heritability between parent and offspring from the same and opposite sex. We found that in utero accumulated hair testosterone levels were heritable between parents and offspring of the same sex. Moreover, there was a low additive genetic covariance between the sexes, and a low cross-sex genetic correlation, suggesting a potential for sex-specific trait evolution, expressed early on, in utero.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105525
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Inc.


This work was supported by the Jewish National Fund - Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (grant no. 90-50-000-17), and Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 153/23).We are grateful to Devorah Matas for her devoted support. We thank KKL-JNF for funding the nutria project and supporting the Hula Research Center. We wish to thank our collaborators from previous work, Prof. Uri Shanas and Prof. Rachel Ben-Shlomo for thoughtful discussions. We also wish to thank our undergraduate student assistants and volunteers, particularly Ester Shavalian, Or Danino, Noam Noylander and Nour Daief, all members of the Koren lab and Anat Levi and the Vortman lab for their support throughout the project.

FundersFunder number
Hula Research Center
Jewish National Fund - Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael90-50-000-17
Israel Science Foundation153/23


    • Cross-sex genetic correlation
    • Fetal steroids
    • Heritability
    • Sexual conflict
    • Testosterone


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