Hormonal independence of courtship behavior in the male garter snake

David Crews, Brian Camazine, Maireanne Diamond, Robert Mason, Richard R. Tokarz, William R. Garstka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Garter snakes exhibit a dissociated reproductive tactic in which gonadal activity is minimal at the time of mating, increasing only after the breeding season has ended. Experiments are presented demonstrating that neither short-term nor longterm castration affects courtship behavior in adult male red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis). So long as males have passed through a lowtemperature dormancy period (hibernation), castration either shortly after emergence in the spring, or before entering winter dormancy in the fall, does not prevent the display of intense courtship behavior on emergence. Similarly, males castrated during mating activity the previous spring prior to the annual testicular growth phase actively courted females on emergence from hibernation. Males adrenalectomized and castrated during low-temperature dormancy also courted females on emergence. Hypophysectomy during or before low-temperature dormancy did not prevent males from displaying high-intensity courtship behavior on emergence from hibernation. Treatment with sex steroid hormones, as well as hypothalamic and pituitary hormones, and a variety of neural and metabolic affectors also fails to elicit courtship behavior in noncourting males during the summer. It was concluded that causal mechanisms controlling courtship behavior in the red-sided garter snake are fundamentally different, at least at the physiological level, from those mechanisms described for many laboratory and domesticated species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-41
Number of pages13
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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