53.4 Thursday, Jan. 5 Female perception of male mate as a stressor may depend on sexual experience DICKENS, M. J.*; CORNIL, C.A.; BALTHAZART, J.; University of Liege; University of Liege; University of Liege firstname.lastname@example.org
In Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), male copulatory behavior includes actions that are potentially injurious to the female. Females may thus perceive a male mate as a stressor and mount a stress response, increasing HPA axis activity and plasma corticosterone (CORT) concentrations. In two separate experiments, we measured CORT in females immediately following 5 min of pairing with a mate. In experiment 1, sexually experienced females were either acutely stressed (ST) or non-stressed (ns) prior to mating and then mated with a male that was either ST or ns. Females (both ST and ns) paired with ns males had significantly higher CORT than their ST/ns counterparts paired with ST males. The number of neck grabs, a male behavior that can be classified as “potentially injurious” to the female, positively correlated with female CORT suggesting that females may perceive such behaviors as stressful. In experiment 2, sexually naive, ns females were paired with males that were non-stressed, stressed or severely stressed (exposed to additional handling). In these females, CORT was significantly higher only when the females were paired with severely stressed males. No relationship was observed here between CORT and neck grabs but CORT was significantly higher, on average, when the mate achieved a full copulatory sequence. In both experiments, female CORT was thus affected by the male stress status but in opposite directions. Comparison of the two data sets suggests that sexual experience may affect which male behaviors are perceived as stressful. While more controlled studies directly comparing and quantifying sexual experience will need to be conducted, these data highlight the complexity of the perception of male behaviors by females and a potential effect of previous experience.