Pregnant spotted hyaenas were treated with anti-androgens to interfere with the unusually masculine 'phallic' development that characterizes females of this species. The effects on genital morphology and plasma androgen concentrations of infants were studied during the first 6 months of life. Although there were consistent 'feminizing' effects of prenatal anti-androgen treatment on genital morphology in both sexes, such exposure did not produce males with extreme hypospadia, as it does in other species, nor did it produce females with a 'typical' mammalian clitoris and external vagina. 'Feminization' of males resulted in a penis with the morphological features of the hyaena clitoris, and 'feminization' of females exaggerated the sex differences that are typical of this species. The effects of treatment were present at birth and persisted for at least 6 months. Treatment of pregnant females with flutamide and finasteride also markedly reduced circulating concentrations of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone in maternal plasma during pregnancy. Plasma Δ4-androstenedione was reduced in the female, but not the male, infants of treated mothers, consistent with an epigenetic hypothesis previously advanced to explain hormonal 'masculinization' of females. The present 'feminizing' effects of prenatal anti-androgen treatment are consistent with contemporary understanding of sexual differentiation, which accounts for morphological variation between the sexes in terms of steroids. However, current theory does not account for the basic genital structure of females and the present data suggest that development of the male penis and scrotum, and the female clitoris and pseudoscrotum, in spotted hyaenas may involve both androgen-dependent and androgen-independent components.
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