Exposure to the steroid hormone 20-hydroxyecdysone modulates agonistic interactions in male Homarus americanus

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In this study we present evidence that 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) affects agonistic behavior in male American lobsters and that male and female animals differ in their response to the hormone. Thirty-minute staged fights were conducted between large males exposed either to artificial seawater (ASW) or 20E and small, anosmic opponents. The nephropores of both combatants were blocked. Fights were videotaped and quantitatively analyzed for aggressive, defensive and avoidance behaviors using an ethogram in which behaviors are ranked according to aggressiveness. Unlike female lobsters, exposing male lobsters to 20E did not increase their aggressive behavior; however, there was a marginally significant trend toward an increase in defensive behaviors with a lower aggressive content than in their ASW-exposed counterparts. The opponents of 20E-exposed animals performed significantly more aggressive behaviors than their counterparts. In fights with 20E-exposed animals, the overall aggressive intensity of the fight was increased and the animals performed a greater number of avoidance behaviors. Unlike the effects of 20E on females, where exposure to 20E caused an increase in overall agonistic arousal, males only exhibited a change in frequency of their behaviors. These findings suggest that while 20E affects both males and females in agonistic encounters, the nature of the effect is different for the two sexes. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.

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Hormones and Behavior