Sex steroid hormones regulate responses to social challenge and opportunity in the convict cichlid, Amatitliana nigrofasciata
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Steroid hormones play an important role in modulating behavioral responses to various social stimuli. However, relatively little is known about how hormones respond to social stimuli and their modulation of subsequent behavior. Variation in the hormonal regulation of behavior across species has complicated the overall understanding of the hormone-behavior dynamic. In order to further elucidate the interplay of hormones and behavior in social situations, we exposed males of the monogamous convict cichlid Amatitliana nigrofasciata to three social stimuli: gravid female, intruder male and nonsocial neutral stimulus. We used a repeated exposure paradigm to create behavioral profiles and explore how sex steroid hormones respond to and regulate social behavior. Results show clear behavioral profiles in different social situations with 11-KT acting as the active androgen, increasing in response to social stimuli. Pharmacological manipulations using androgen and estrogen receptor agonists and antagonists exposed complex control over digging behavior based on social context, showed a unique decrease in aggressive behavior due to blocking the androgen receptors and a ubiquitous drug effect on vertical display. Results create well defined context-specific behavior profiles and extends our understanding of particular social behavior and how sex steroid hormones are involved in social situations and the behavioral response.