Collective Behaviour - Fall Seminar Series 2020

Sex is stressy. Is stress sexy? The role of glucocorticoid hormones in modulating sexual behavior

Alexander Baugh, Swarthmore College

Alexander Baugh is an Associate Professor at Swarthmore College, USA. He is an integrative biologist seeking to understand how animals conduct their lives in their intimate natural environments. His lab primarily studies how hormones and the brain generate variation in behavior and connects this variation to fitness consequences in the wild. He is especially interested in differences within- and among-individuals. He studies (co)variation at these two levels and use sexual behavior (vocal, auditory), coping behavior (exploration) and (neuro)endocrine (steroid and peptide hormone systems) traits as the heritable yet labile phenotypic characters of interest.

Sex is stressy. Is stress sexy? The role of glucocorticoid hormones in modulating sexual behavior. 

Sex is stressy. In vertebrates, glucocorticoid hormones (GCs)--sometimes referred to as 'stress hormones' are known to be at peak levels during reproductive readiness in seasonally breeding species, and the opportunity to mate can itself drive a spike in GC levels (i.e. GCs do not predict the valence of a challenge). However, GCs (and the HPA axis more generally) are also thought to be antagonistic to sexual motivation and the hormone axis that underpins it, the gonadal steroid axis (HPG). These observations, combined with the fact GC receptors are expressed in sexual, sensory and decision-making brain areas, might also suggest that stress is sexy. Unfortunately, scarcely little is known about how GCs impact sexual behavior. In this talk I will describe work by my group investigating the effects of GC concentrations on female sexual behavior in seasonally breeding Cope’s gray treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis). This work will be placed in the broader context of how GCs regulate behavior more generally, including known relationships between GCs and sexual communication in males, mate choice behavior in females and how sexual selection potentially feeds back on GC regulation.

Datum: 2020-11-09