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Horm Behav. 2003 May;43(5):523-30.

Differential effects of testosterone and progesterone on the activation and retention of courtship behavior in sexual and parthenogenetic whiptail lizards.

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  • 1Institute for Neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA. jsakata@phy.ucsf.edu


Both testosterone (T) and progesterone (P) facilitate the expression of male-typical sexual behavior in a variety of animals, including rodents and lizards. In two species of whiptail lizards, Cnemidophorus inornatus and C. uniparens, both hormones elicit the full repertoire of courtship behavior. However, the relative efficacy of the two hormones is unknown. In Experiments 1 and 2 we assessed differences in capacity of exogenous T and P to induce male-typical courtship behavior in gonadectomized whiptail lizards. In both species, individuals implanted with T showed more frequent courtship behavior relative to those implanted with P or cholesterol. In Experiments 3 and 4 we examined whether T and P differentially affected the retention of courtship behavior following implant removal. In both species, individuals implanted with T showed more courtship behavior following implant removal than those previously given P. In these experiments, implants were removed at a time when individuals in both groups were behaviorally similar; therefore, the differences in behavior following implant removal were not due to differences in the amount of courtship experience. Taken together, the hormone that was more effective at activating courtship behavior was also more effective at maintaining courtship behavior following implant removal. In summary, though both T and P can elicit identical sexual behaviors in both whiptail species, T has a greater and more lasting effect on courtship behavior and possibly on the neural circuits underlying courtship behavior.

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