Organization and activation of sexual and agonistic behavior in the leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius

Neuroendocrinology. 2000 Apr;71(4):252-61. doi: 10.1159/000054543.


Gonadal sex is determined by the temperature experienced during incubation in the leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius). Furthermore, both factors, incubation temperature and gonadal sex, influence adult sexual and agonistic behavior in this species. Yet it is unclear whether such differences in behavior are irreversibly organized during development or are mediated by differences in hormone levels in adulthood. To address this question, we gonadectomized adult females and males generated from a female-biased (30 degrees C) and a male-biased (32.5 degrees C) incubation temperature and treated them with equivalent levels of various sex steroids. We found that 17beta-estradiol (E(2)) activated sexual receptivity in females but not males, suggesting an organized sex difference in behavioral sensitivity to E(2). There were also organized and activated sex differences in attractivity to stimulus males. Although females were more attractive than males when treated with E(2), both sexes were equally unattractive when treated with dihydrotestosterone (DHT) or testosterone (T). Likewise, sex differences in aggressive and submissive behavior were organized and activated. Attacks on stimulus males were activated by T in males but not in females. In contrast, hormones did not influence flight behavior in males but did affect female submissiveness. Overall, males also evoked more attacks by stimulus males than did females. Nevertheless, females and males treated with androgens evoked more attacks than animals of the same sex that were treated with cholesterol or E(2). Incubation temperature had some weak effects on certain behaviors and no effect on others. This suggests that temperature effects in gonadally intact geckos may be due primarily to differences in circulating levels of hormones in adulthood. We conclude that gonadal sex has both organizational and activational effects on various behaviors in the leopard gecko.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Copulation / drug effects
  • Copulation / physiology*
  • Dihydrotestosterone / pharmacology
  • Dominance-Subordination
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / pharmacology
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Male
  • Temperature
  • Testosterone / pharmacology


  • Estrogens
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Testosterone