TitleSeasonal variation in hormonal responses of timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) to reproductive and environmental stressors
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsLutterschmidt, WI, Lutterschmidt, DI, Mason, RT, Reinert, HK
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology B-Biochemical Systemic and Environmental Physiology
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Data addressing adrenocortical modulation across taxonomic groups are limited, especially with regard to how female reproductive condition influences the sensitivity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. We investigated seasonal and reproductive variation in basal and stress-induced hormone profiles in a population of free-ranging timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) in north-central Pennsylvania during spring (i.e., May), summer (i.e., July), and early fall (i.e., September). Baseline corticosterone concentrations varied seasonally and were significantly lower during the summer sampling period in July. We observed a significant negative relationship between baseline corticosterone and testosterone in male snakes, while baseline corticosterone and estradiol tended to be positively correlated in females. Treatment of snakes with 1 h of capture stress significantly increased corticosterone across all seasons. However, there was a significant interaction between corticosterone responses to capture stress and season, suggesting that adrenocortical function is modulated seasonally. Because elevated corticosterone may be associated with reproduction, we asked whether hormonal stress responses vary with female reproductive condition. Although sample sizes are low, reproductive snakes had significantly higher baseline and stress-induced corticosterone concentrations than non-reproductive or post-parturient females. Further, despite similar baseline corticosterone concentrations between non-reproductive and post-parturient rattlesnakes, post-parturient females responded to capture stress with a significantly higher increase in corticosterone. Collectively, these data suggest that the sensitivity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis varies both seasonally and with changing reproductive states.

URL<Go to ISI>://WOS:000268312100009