Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 183, Issue 7, pp 933–946 | Cite as

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)

  • D. K. Hews
  • A. J. Abell Baniki
Original Paper


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.


Corticosterone Androgens Acute stress Reproductive state Body condition Lizards Sceloporus Latitude Elevation Breeding season duration 



We are grateful for partial funding from the National Science Foundation (IBN-9629783 to DKH), the Provost of Indiana State University (to AAB), and the Department of Biology. We appreciate the field assistance provided by K Field and the logistical support of the staff and student volunteers of the Southwestern Research Station of the American Museum of Natural History. Comments by PE Scott, M Thaker and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyIndiana State UniversityTerre HauteUSA
  2. 2.Texas Department of State Health Services, Office of Border Health-M/C 1962AustinUSA

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