Journal article

Intra- and interspecific social challenges modulate the levels of an androgen precursor in a seasonally territorial tropical damselfish

Studies on different vertebrate groups have provided evidence that androgen levels in males increase after competitive social interactions during the breeding season, as postulated by the Challenge Hypothesis. However, social modulation of androgen levels may vary with latitude and may differ between species holding seasonal versus year-round territories. Here, we tested the Challenge Hypothesis on a seasonal tropical damselfish, Abudefduf sexfasciatus, where males temporarily defend territory and eggs against both intra- and interspecific individuals. Carrying out simulated territorial intrusions (STIs) in the laboratory, we document for the first time a consistent increase in the plasma level of the androgen precursor 11-ketoandrostenedione (11KA) in fish confronted to either intra- or interspecific challenges. Collecting samples in the field also revealed higher 11KA levels in fish facing frequent territorial interactions than in non-territorial individuals. Levels of 11-ketotestosterone (11KT) were high in territorial males in the field, but were not incremented after simulated territorial intrusions in the laboratory. Plasma levels of cortisol and testosterone were not affected by challenges but were different in wild and captive specimens. Although the endocrine responses to STIs did not differ between intra- and interspecific challenges, agonistic displays expressed by resident fish were more intense towards intraspecific intruders. Taken together, our study emphasizes the need to incorporate androgen precursor concentrations to advance our understanding on the physiology of territorial interactions. (C) 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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