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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2013 Nov 1;193:178-84. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2013.08.004. Epub 2013 Aug 12.

Influence of temperature on the corticosterone stress-response: an experiment in the Children's python (Antaresia childreni).

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Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, CEBC-CNRS UPR 1934, 79360 Villiers en Bois, France; Université de Poitiers, 40 Avenue du recteur Pineau, 86022 Poitiers, France. Electronic address:


To cope with environmental challenges, organisms have to adjust their behaviours and their physiology to the environmental conditions they face (i.e. allostasis). In vertebrates, such adjustments are often mediated through the secretion of glucocorticoids (GCs) that are well-known to activate and/or inhibit specific physiological and behavioural traits. In ectothermic species, most processes are temperature-dependent and according to previous studies, low external temperatures should be associated with low GC concentrations (both baseline and stress-induced concentrations). In this study, we experimentally tested this hypothesis by investigating the short term influence of temperature on the GC stress response in a squamate reptile, the Children's python (Antaresia childreni). Snakes were maintained in contrasting conditions (warm and cold groups), and their corticosterone (CORT) stress response was measured (baseline and stress-induced CORT concentrations), within 48h of treatment. Contrary to our prediction, baseline and stress-induced CORT concentrations were higher in the cold versus the warm treatment. In addition, we found a strong negative relationship between CORT concentrations (baseline and stress-induced) and temperature within the cold treatment. Although it remains unclear how cold temperatures can mechanistically result in increased CORT concentrations, we suggest that, at suboptimal temperature, high CORT concentrations may help the organism to maintain an alert state.


Children’s python; Glucocorticoids; Stress response; Temperature; Thermal treatments

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