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Horm Behav. 2006 Sep;50(3):469-76. Epub 2006 Jul 24.

Effects of androgens on behavioral and vomeronasal responses to chemosensory cues in male terrestrial salamanders (Plethodon shermani).

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Duquesne University, 600 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217, USA.


Chemosensory stimuli and sex steroid hormones are both required for the full expression of social behaviors in many species. The terrestrial salamander, Plethodon shermani, is an emerging nonmammalian system for investigating the nature and evolution of pheromonal communication, yet little is known regarding the role of sex steroid hormones. We hypothesized that increased circulating androgen levels in male P. shermani enhance chemoreception through morphological, behavioral, and physiological mechanisms. Experimental elevation of plasma androgens increased development of cirri, morphological structures thought to enhance the transfer of chemosensory cues from the substrate to the vomeronasal organ (VNO). Elevated plasma androgens also increased expression of a chemo-investigatory behavior (nose tapping) and increased preference for some female-derived chemosensory cues. Male-produced courtship pheromones activated a large number of cells in the VNO as measured by the method of agmatine uptake. However, androgen levels did not affect the total number of vomeronasal cells activated by male-produced courtship pheromones. Future studies will determine whether androgens potentially modulate responsiveness of the VNO to female-derived (as opposed to male-derived) chemosensory cues.

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