20-Hydroxyecdysone causes increased aggressiveness in female American lobsters, Homarus americanus

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Lobsters become transiently more aggressive before ecdysis. This aggressiveness accompanies an increase in hemolymph titers of 20-hydroxyecdysone (20-HE). Combats between intermolt female lobsters, injected with premolt levels of 20-HE, and larger, saline-injected opponents were videotaped. Aggressive, defensive, and avoidance behaviors were ranked according to aggressiveness in a Rank of Aggression hierarchy, which included opponent-directed and (nonopponent) redirected behaviors. Treated animals performed more and more highly aggressive behaviors than saline-injected controls. Opponents of treated animals performed fewer aggressive behaviors than saline-injected control opponents. Controls performed more defensive behaviors than treated animals, when redirected behaviors were considered. Differences in avoidance behaviors among the four types of combatants were not significant. The total aggressive content was the same in treated and control fights, but the interactions between combatants in the two fights were significantly different. Treated animals were equally as aggressive and defensive as their opponents; controls were relatively less aggressive and more defensive than their opponents. These results correlate with molt-cycle variations in behavior, 20-HE titers, and the effects of 20-HE and molt-differentiated hemolymph on the claw opener muscle. They suggest that 20-HE orchestrates intrinsic, cellular, and nuclear events that produce the molt-cycle transformations in agonistic behavior and aggressive state of lobsters. © 2001 Academic Press.

Publication Title

Hormones and Behavior