Somatic Correlates of Adrenergic Activity during Aggression in the Lizard, Anolis carolinensis
Abstract. Aggressive interactions in Anolis carolinensis result in increased circulating levels of epinephrine (Epi) and norepinephrine (NE) and conspicuous color changes. This activation of the adrenergic component of an acute stress response is externally represented by the darkening of the postorbital eyespot of A. carolinensis. In adult males, this site darkens in response to stressful physical stimulation (trauma, passive restraint) or psychological stimuli, most notably the sight of an aggressively intruding conspecific. Aggressive male A. carolinensis exhibit postorbital eyespot darkening; animals that have a longer latency to expression of this eyespot and those that never show this response were defeated in agonistic interactions. Also, during agonistic interactions, subjects that subsequently win are the first to display eyespot darkening. Plasma catecholamine levels are significantly elevated within 30 sec in both combatants. At 30 sec following the determination of the outcome, winning male lizards have plasma NE levels which are higher than those of losers. Castration, however, significantly increases the latency to eyespot darkening and extends its duration. Testosterone levels may therefore enhance the onset of Epi-mediated eyespot darkening as well as other aspects of the endocrine stress response. Elevated androgen levels and more rapid activation of acute catecholamine response increases the likelihood of becoming socially dominant.