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1.  Steroid hormones alter neuroanatomy and aggression independently in the tree lizard 
Physiology & behavior  2007;93(3):492-501.
KABELIK, D., Weiss S. L. AND MOORE M. C. Steroid hormones alter neuroanatomy and aggression independently in the tree lizard. PHYSIOL BEHAV 00(0) 000-000, 0000. –Steroid hormones affect changes in both neuroanatomy and aggressive behavior in animals of various taxa. However, whether changes in neuroanatomy directly underlie changes in aggression is unknown. We investigate this relationship among steroid hormones, neuroanatomy, and aggression in a free-living vertebrate with a relatively simple nervous system, the tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus). Weiss and Moore [1] manipulated testosterone and progesterone levels in adult male tree lizards and found that both hormones facilitated aggressive behavior toward a conspecific. In this study, we examined the brains of a subset of these animals to determine whether changes in limbic morphology were associated with hormone-induced changes in aggressive behavior. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that testosterone and/or progesterone cause changes in neural morphology that are necessary for the expression of testosterone’s effects on aggressive behavior. We found that both hormones increased aggression; however, only testosterone induced changes in neuroanatomy. Testosterone increased the size of both the amygdala and nucleus sphericus. However, we could detect no individual correlations between neuroanatomy and aggression levels suggesting that the observed large-scale changes in neuroanatomy are not precisely reflective of changes in mechanisms underlying aggression.
PMCID: PMC4286361  PMID: 17996258
Testosterone; Progesterone; Aggression; Agonistic Behavior; Lizard; Reptile; Amygdala; Nucleus Sphericus
2.  Variation in stress and innate immunity in the tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus) across an urban-rural gradient 
The urban environment presents new and different challenges to wildlife, but also potential opportunities depending on the species. As urban encroachment onto native habitats continues, understanding the impact of this expansion on native species is vital to conservation. A key physiological indicator of environmental disturbance is the vertebrate stress response, involving increases in circulating glucocorticoids (i.e., corticosterone), which exert influence on numerous physiological parameters including energy storage, reproduction, and immunity. We examined how urbanization in Phoenix, Arizona influences corticosterone levels, blood parasitism, and innate immunity in populations of tree lizards (Urosaurus ornatus) to determine whether urbanization may be detrimental or beneficial to this species. Both baseline and stress-induced corticosterone concentrations were significantly lower in urban lizards relative to the rural ones, however, the magnitude of the increase in corticosterone with stress did not differ across populations. Urban lizards also had a lower ratio of heterophils to lymphocytes, but elevated overall leukocyte count, as compared to lizards from the natural site. Urban and rural lizards did not differ in their prevalence of the blood parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum. Taken together, these results suggest that urban tree lizards may have suppressed overall corticosterone concentrations possibly from down-regulation as a result of frequent exposure to stressors, or increased access to urban resources. Also, urban lizards may have bolstered immunocompetence possibly from increased immune challenges, such as wounding, in the urban environment, or from greater energetic reserves being available as a result of access to urban resources.
PMCID: PMC2774757  PMID: 18594834
disturbance; corticosterone; leukocytes; urbanization; parasites
3.  Corticosterone stimulates hatching of late-term tree lizard embryos. 
The regulation of hatching in oviparous animals is important for successful reproduction and survival, but is poorly understood. We unexpectedly found that RU-486, a progesterone and glucocorticoid antagonist, interferes with hatching of viable tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus) embryos in a dose-dependent manner and hypothesized that embryonic glucocorticoids regulate hatching. To test this hypothesis, we treated eggs with corticosterone (CORT) or vehicle on Day 30 (85%) of incubation, left other eggs untreated, and observed relative hatch order and hatch time. In one study, the CORT egg hatched first in 9 of 11 clutches. In a second study, the CORT egg hatched first in 9 of 12 clutches, before vehicle-treated eggs in 10 of 12 clutches, and before untreated eggs in 7 of 9 clutches. On average, CORT eggs hatched 18.2h before vehicle-treated eggs and 11.6h before untreated eggs. Thus, CORT accelerates hatching of near-term embryos and RU-486 appears to block this effect. CORT may mobilize energy substrates that fuel hatching and/or accelerate lung development, and may provide a mechanism by which stressed embryos escape environmental stressors.
PMCID: PMC1885679  PMID: 17208477
development; glucocorticoids; oviparous; reproduction; Urosaurus ornatus; stress

Results 1-3 (3)