Japanese quail as a model system for studying the neuroendocrine control of reproductive and social behaviors

Gregory F. Ball, Jacques Balthazart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica; referred to simply as quail in this article) readily exhibit sexual behavior and related social behaviors in captive conditions and have therefore proven valuable for studies of how early social experience can shape adult mate preference and sexual behavior. Quail have also been used in sexual conditioning studies illustrating that natural stimuli predict successful reproduction via Pavlovian processes. In addition, they have proven to be a good model to study how variation in photo-period regulates reproduction and how variation in gonadal steroid hormones controls sexual behavior. For example, studies have shown that testosterone activates male-typical behaviors after being metabolized into estrogenic and andro-genic metabolites. A critical site of action for these metabolites is the medial preoptic nucleus (POM), which is larger in males than in females. The enzyme aromatase converts testosterone to estradiol and is enriched in the POM in a male-biased fashion. Quail studies were the fi rst to show that this enzyme is regulated both relatively slowly via genomic actions of steroids and more quickly via phosphorylation. With this base of knowledge and the recent cloning of the entire genome of the closely related chicken, quail will be valuable for future studies connecting gene expression to sexual and social behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-325
Number of pages16
JournalILAR journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010


  • Appetitive sexual behavior
  • Aromatase
  • Consummatory sexual behavior
  • Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica)
  • Preoptic area (POA)
  • Sex differences
  • Sexual differentiation
  • Sexual learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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