In seasonal breeders, there are behavioral, endocrine, and neural adaptations that promote the sexual receptivity of females and tune their sensory systems to detect and discriminate among advertising males and to successfully copulate. What happens immediately after this key life history event is unclear, but this transitional moment offers a window into the mechanisms that remodel sexual phenotypes. In this study of wild female Cope's gray treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis), we tested the hypothesis that oviposition results in a suite of coordinated changes in the sexual phenotype. Specifically, we predicted that sexual receptivity and discrimination behaviors would decline along with circulating concentrations of steroid hormones (corticosterone, estradiol, testosterone) and auditory sensitivity to the acoustic frequencies emphasized in male advertisement calls. We conducted these trait measurements before and after oviposition (ca. 24-h period). There was a 100% decrease in behavioral responsiveness after oviposition, and the concentrations of all three steroids plummeted during this brief window of time, especially testosterone. Moreover, higher concentrations of corticosterone—an important component of the endocrine stress response—were associated with longer response latencies, suggesting that adrenal hormones should be considered in future studies on the hormonal basis of mate choice. Counter to our prediction, auditory sensitivity increased following oviposition, and the amplitude of the auditory brainstem response was influenced by concentrations of estradiol. In pre-oviposition females auditory sensitivity diminished with increasing estradiol concentrations, while sensitivity increased with increasing estradiol concentrations in post-oviposition females, suggesting non-linear estrogenic modulation of peripheral auditory neural recruitment. Overall, our results indicate that there is considerable remodeling of behavioral output following oviposition that co-occurs with changes in both endocrine and sensory physiology.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Michener Faculty Fellowship at Swarthmore College to ATB and a National Science Foundation grant to MAB (IOS 1452831 ).
This work was supported by the Michener Faculty Fellowship at Swarthmore College to ATB and a National Science Foundation grant to MAB (IOS 1452831).
- Auditory evoked potentials
- Auditory thresholds
- Mate choice