, Volume 183, Issue 7, pp 933-946
Date: 07 Jun 2013

The breeding season duration hypothesis: acute handling stress and total plasma concentrations of corticosterone and androgens in male and female striped plateau lizards (Sceloporus virgatus)

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Abstract

Acute glucocorticoid elevations can be adaptations to short-term stressors. The breeding season hypothesis predicts reduced glucocorticoid responsiveness to acute stressors in populations or species with short breeding seasons. The striped plateau lizard (Sceloporus virgatus) has a short breeding season in Arizona. We measured plasma corticosterone and total androgen levels (dihydrotestosterone and testosterone) following one of the four stress-handling treatments (0, 10, 60, or 180 min). In both sexes, longer handling stress yielded higher corticosterone; females had higher corticosterone than males at all time points. Androgens did not vary with handling duration, in either sex. Combining treatments, plasma androgens correlated positively with corticosterone (CORT) in females but not in males; plasma CORT and body mass residuals were negatively correlated in both sexes, suggesting lizards in poor body condition and/or not investing heavily in reproduction (follicle mass) have higher acute corticosterone. Total plasma androgens and body mass residuals were positively associated in males, but showed no association in females. The maximal CORT elevation after handling stress in this single-clutching species was of comparable magnitude to responses in related multi-clutching lizard species with longer breeding seasons. Using data from studies of multiple populations of three Sceloporus species, we found no relationship between the relative magnitude of the CORT increase and either latitude or elevation, two variables in the literature correlated with duration of the breeding season, and only weak relationships with geographic elevation and actual (not relative) stress-elevated CORT values in this multi-population comparison.

Communicated by H.V. Carey.