Direct exposure to corticosterone during embryonic development influences behaviour in an ovoviviparous lizard
Uller T., Olsson M.
It is becoming increasingly clear that conditions experienced during embryonic development can be of major importance for traits subsequent to parturition or hatching. For example, in mammals, offspring from stressed mothers show a variety of changes in behavioural, morphological, and life-history traits. The effects of maternal stress on trait development are believed to be mediated via transfer of glucocorticoids, the main hormones released during the stress response, from mother to offspring. However, also other physiological maternal responses during stress could be responsible for changes in offspring phenotype. We investigated the direct effects of corticosterone on offspring development, without other confounding factors related to increased maternal stress, by injection of corticosterone in eggs of the ovoviviparous lizard Lacerta vivipara. Corticosterone-manipulated offspring did not show impaired development, reduced body size or body condition at parturition. However, corticosterone-treated offspring showed altered anti-predator behaviour, as measured by the time required to emerge from shelter after a simulated predator attack. Differential steroid exposure during development, possibly mediated by maternal stress response, may explain some of the variation in behaviour among individuals in natural populations. © 2006 Blackwell Verlag.