Historical perspective: Hormonal regulation of behaviors in amphibians. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • This review focuses on research into the hormonal control of behaviors in amphibians that was conducted prior to the 21st century. Most advances in this field come from studies of a limited number of species and investigations into the hormonal mechanisms that regulate reproductive behaviors in male frogs and salamanders. From this earlier research, we highlight five main generalizations or conclusions. (1) Based on studies of vocalization behaviors in anurans, testicular androgens induce developmental changes in cartilage and muscles fibers in the larynx and thereby masculinize peripheral structures that influence the properties of advertisement calls by males. (2) Gonadal steroid hormones act to enhance reproductive behaviors in adult amphibians, but causal relationships are not as well established in amphibians as in birds and mammals. Research into the relationships between testicular androgens and male behaviors, mainly using castration/steroid treatment studies, generally supports the conclusion that androgens are necessary but not sufficient to enhance male behaviors. (3) Prolactin acts synergistically with androgens and induces reproductive development, sexual behaviors, and pheromone production. This interaction between prolactin and gonadal steroids helps to explain why androgens alone sometimes fail to stimulate amphibian behaviors. (4) Vasotocin also plays an important role and enhances specific types of behaviors in amphibians (frog calling, receptivity in female frogs, amplectic clasping in newts, and non-clasping courtship behaviors). Gonadal steroids typically act to maintain behavioral responses to vasotocin. Vasotocin modulates behavioral responses, at least in part, by acting within the brain on sensory pathways that detect sexual stimuli and on motor pathways that control behavioral responses. (5) Corticosterone acts as a potent and rapid suppressor of reproductive behaviors during periods of acute stress. These rapid stress-induced changes in behaviors use non-genomic mechanisms and membrane-associated corticosterone receptors.

publication date

  • November 2005