Effects of testosterone on the development of neuromuscular systems and their target tissues involved in courtship and copulation in green anoles (Anolis carolinensis)

Horm Behav. 2004 May;45(5):295-305. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2003.10.003.


Male green anole lizards court females using a red throat fan (dewlap) and copulate by intromitting one of two penises (hemipenes). These structures begin sexually monomorphic, but by adulthood males have larger dewlaps, only males have hemipenes, and many of the neuromuscular components of both systems show male-biased dimorphisms. We hypothesized that testosterone (T), which increases in juvenile males but not females about a month after hatching, facilitates masculinization. To test this idea, on post-hatching day 30, gonadally intact females received either a blank or T implant, and males were either castrated or sham-castrated. At day 90, juveniles were euthanized and the length of the cartilage and cross-sectional areas of the muscle fibers and motoneurons required for dewlap extension were examined. We also measured the cross-sectional areas of the hemipenes and associated muscle fibers and motoneurons, and counted the motoneurons. T-treated females had longer cartilages and larger dewlap muscle fibers compared to those with blank implants. No effects on motoneurons were detected, and no females possessed hemipenes or associated musculature. In males, castration produced shorter dewlap cartilages and smaller hemipenes; other measures were not affected by treatment. These data indicate that components of the dewlap system differentiate relatively late in development, that T likely mediates the process, and that although components of the copulatory system are plastic in juvenile males, sexual differentiation of peripheral features is complete before day 30. The data also suggest that target structures (dewlap cartilage and hemipenes), compared to their neuromuscular effectors, are particularly sensitive to developmental T exposure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Body Constitution
  • Copulation / drug effects
  • Copulation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Pharynx / growth & development*
  • Pharynx / innervation
  • Pharynx / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*


  • Androgens
  • Testosterone