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Fight or flight? Effects of vaginal oestrus on cortisol, testosterone, and behaviour in guinea pig female-female interaction

Glenk, Lisa M., Machatschke, Ivo H., Wallner, Bernard
Behavioural processes 2018 v.157 pp. 625-631
aggression, cortisol, estrus, females, guinea pigs, psychosocial factors, secretion, testosterone
It is accepted that social stress in relation to confrontation and competition can elicit behavioural and hormonal changes in social mammals. These effects have, however, been less frequently studied among female-female interactions. In the present study female-female confrontation experiments were carried out to monitor socio-positive and agonistic behaviour by controlling for the oestrus cycles of 12 individuals. Additionally, plasma cortisol (CORT) and testosterone (T) levels were determined before and after the experiments.During non-oestrus conditions a significant increase in CORT levels from pre- to post confrontation was registered and females spent more time to sit side by side. During vaginal oestrus the confrontation experiments revealed avoiding of a conspecific female by showing increased flight behaviour. However, during that period no changes in CORT levels were found. But, a non-significant increase in T was measured from pre- to post confrontation in both cycle phases, while no differences in the display of aggressive behaviours were found. These findings indicate considerable influences of different oestrus cycle phases on social stress-induced CORT secretion and the modulation of socio-positive and agonistic behaviour in female guinea pigs.