Intra- and interspecific challenges modulate cortisol but not androgen levels in a year-round territorial damselfish

Albert F H Ros, Philippe Vullioud, Rick Bruintjes, Armelle Vallat, Redouan Bshary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (SciVal)


Interactions between individuals of different species are commonplace in animal communities. Some behaviors displayed during these interspecific social interactions may be very similar to those displayed during intraspecific social interactions. However, whether functional analogies between intra- and interspecific behaviors translate at the proximate level into an overlap in their underlying endocrine mechanisms remains largely unknown. Because steroids both mediate social behaviors and respond to them, we approached this question by comparing the behavioral and steroid response of free-living dusky gregories (Stegastes nigricans) to standardized territorial intrusions (sTI) of either conspecific or heterospecific food competitors. Stegastes nigricans is a year-round territorial fish that 'cultivates' the algae on which it feeds and is highly aggressive to both intra- and interspecific intruders. Behavioral differences between intra- and interspecific aggressive responses to sTI were marginal, and sTI tests caused an increase in cortisol levels that was positively related with the levels of aggression. In contrast, androgen levels did not increase in response to sTI, yet they showed a positive relationship with agonistic behavior. These results parallel a pattern that was first described for year-round territorial bird species. Furthermore, they suggest that changes in endocrinehormone levels during territoriality might be independent of the species that induces the territorial response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1768-1774
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2014


  • 11-ketotestosterone
  • Cortisol
  • Interspecific behavior
  • Teleost
  • Territorial aggression
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Molecular Biology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Insect Science


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