Published in General and Comparative Endocrinology, Vol. 155, Issue 3 (February 2008) at DOI: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2007.10.005


The Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) is protected in several states due to its apparently declining numbers; information on its physiology is therefore of interest from both comparative endocrine and applied perspectives. We collected blood samples from free-ranging P. cornutum in Oklahoma from April to September 2005, spanning their complete active period. We determined plasma concentrations of the steroids, progesterone (P), testosterone (T), and corticosterone (CORT) by radioimmunoassay following chromatographic separation and 17β-estradiol (E2) by direct radioimmunoassay. T concentrations in breeding males were significantly higher than in non-breeding males. P showed no significant seasonal variation within either sex. CORT was significantly higher during the egg-laying season compared to breeding and non-breeding seasons for adult females and it was marginally higher in breeding than in non-breeding males (P = 0.055). CORT concentrations also significantly increased with handling in non-breeding males and egg-laying females. Perhaps most surprisingly, there were no significant sex differences in plasma concentrations of P and E2. Furthermore, with respect to seasonal differences, plasma E2 concentrations were significantly higher in breeding females than in egg-laying or non-breeding females, and they were significantly higher in breeding than in non-breeding males. During the non-breeding season, yearling males exhibited higher E2 concentrations than adult males; no other differences between the steroid concentrations of yearlings and adults were detected. In comparison to other vertebrates, the seasonal steroid profile of P. cornutum exhibited both expected and unexpected patterns, and our results illustrate the value of collecting such baseline data as a springboard for appropriate questions for future research.