Chemical signals can provide useful information to potential mates and rivals. The production mechanisms of these signals are poorly understood in birds, despite emerging evidence that volatile compounds from preen oil may serve as chemosignals. Steroid hormones, including testosterone (T), may influence the production of these signals, yet variation in circulating T only partly accounts for this variation. We hypothesized that odor is a T-mediated signal of an individual's phenotype, regulated in part by androgen sensitivity in the uropygial gland. We quantified natural variation in chemosignals, T, uropygial gland androgen sensitivity, and aggressive behavior in dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis). The interaction between circulating T and androgen receptor transcript abundance significantly correlated with volatile concentrations in male, but not female, preen oil. In both sexes, odorant variables correlated with aggressive response to an intruder. Our results suggest that preen oil volatiles could function as signals of aggressive intent, and, at least in males, may be regulated by local androgen receptor signaling in the uropygial gland. Because these behavioral and chemical traits have been linked with reproductive success, local regulation of androgen sensitivity in the periphery has the potential to be a target of selection in the evolution of avian olfactory signaling.
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