Vasotocin (AVT) promotes courtship in a wide range of vertebrates. However, this effect is not independent of steroid hormones. For example, androgens may work in concert with AVT and corticosterone (CORT) may work to oppose AVT action. In frogs, AVT promotes calling, and in some species, CORT inhibits calling. In addition, androgens are known to modulate AVT in the brain, and CORT may depress androgen secretion. Previous work in amphibians has suggested that AVT promotes courtship by overcoming a CORT-mediated stress response. Possible behavioral and hormonal interactions among AVT, CORT, and androgens were investigated in wild, free-living green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea). Saline, AVT, CORT, or a combination of AVT and CORT were administered to calling males, and several measures of spontaneous calling were evaluated for 1.5 h following injection. Plasma testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and CORT were also measured. Saline-injected males had low CORT levels, and AVT and CORT injection elevated plasma CORT levels. AVT increased the likelihood of calling, but, in males who did call, AVT did not influence latency to call or how often they were observed calling. Very few saline-injected males resumed calling after injection, and therefore a CORT effect was only detectable in AVT-injected males. CORT inhibited calling in AVT-injected males only at the highest dose of CORT (40 microg); lower levels of CORT were unsuccessful at inhibiting AVT-induced calling. AVT appeared to have a specific effect on calling motivation. Further, the data suggest that disinhibition of a CORT response is not the primary mechanism by which AVT increases calling. In addition, CORT injection reduced endogenous androgen levels. Finally, endogenous androgens were negatively correlated with latency to begin calling, suggesting that they may have a positive effect on calling. These data indicate that AVT has positive effects on calling but provide only weak evidence that CORT inhibits courtship in this species.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.