Acute effects of corticosterone injection on paternal behavior in California mouse (Peromyscus californicus) fathers

Breanna N. Harris, Juan Pablo Perea-Rodriguez, Wendy Saltzman

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37 Scopus citations


Glucocorticoids are thought to mediate the disruption of parental behavior in response to acute and chronic stress. Previous research supports their role in chronic stress; however, no study has experimentally tested the effects of acute glucocorticoid elevation on paternal behavior. We tested the prediction that acute corticosterone (CORT) increases would decrease paternal behavior in California mouse fathers and would lead to longer-term effects on reproductive success, as even short-term increases in CORT have been shown to produce lasting effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. First-time fathers were injected with 30 mg/kg CORT, 60 mg/kg CORT or vehicle, or left unmanipulated. Interactions between the male and its pup(s) were recorded 1.5-2 h after injection and scored for paternal and non-paternal behavior. Treatment groups were combined into control (unmanipulated. +. vehicle, n = 15) and CORT (30 mg/kg. +. 60 mg/kg, n = 16) for analysis based on resulting plasma CORT concentrations. CORT treatment did not alter paternal or non-paternal behaviors or any long-term measures (male body mass or temperature, pup growth rate, pup survival, interbirth interval, number or mass of pups born in the second litter). Fathers showed a significant rise in body mass at day 30 postpartum, followed by a decrease in body mass after the birth of the second litter; however, this pattern did not differ between the CORT and control groups. In summary, acute elevation of plasma CORT did not alter direct paternal behavior, body mass, or reproductive outcomes, suggesting that acute CORT elevation alone does not overtly disrupt paternal care in this biparental mammal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-675
Number of pages10
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Acute
  • Body mass
  • California mice
  • Corticosterone
  • Glucocorticoid
  • HPA
  • Paternal care
  • Peromyscus
  • Stress
  • Trade-off


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