Glucocorticoids (GCs) are rarely studied in the context of female mate choice, despite the expression of receptors for these products in sexual, sensory and decision-making brain areas. Here we investigated the effects of GC concentrations on three aspects of female sexual behavior in breeding Cope's gray treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis): proceptivity—a measure of sexual motivation, intraspecific mate preferences, and mate choosiness. To our knowledge this is the first experimental study on the endocrine basis of mate choosiness. We predicted that mate choosiness—forfeiting an initial mate preference to pursue a suddenly more attractive mate—would be particularly impacted by elevated GCs with moderate GC levels associated with greater choosiness. We found support for this predicted inverted-U relationship. Females in the control group (no injection) showed no change in choosiness across timepoints. In contrast, females in the vehicle, Low (20 ng g−1) and High (180 ng g−1) corticosterone groups exhibited a nominal decline in choosiness after injection, suggesting that the experience of injection has little or perhaps slightly suppressive effects on female choosiness. Females in the moderate dose group (60 ng g−1), however, exhibited a significant increase (>100%) in choosiness. Further, we found no effect of elevated GCs on sexual proceptivity or the species-typical preference for longer calls. These findings may reflect a buffering of primary sensory areas in the brain against elevated GCs. The recruitment of other cognitive processes during active decision-making, however, may facilitate GC modulation of mate choosiness, thereby promoting tactical plasticity at this critical life history juncture.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Michener Faculty Fellowship and the Swarthmore College Research Fund at Swarthmore College to ATB, six undergraduate research fellowships from Swarthmore College and a National Science Foundation grant to MAB ( IOS 1452831 ).
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.
- Dynamic mate choice
- Mate preferences