Corticosterone does not have a role in temperature sex reversal in the central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps)

Meghan Castelli, Arthur Georges, Clare E. Holleley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental sex determination (ESD) is common among ectothermic vertebrates. The stress axis and production of stress hormones (corticosteroids) regulates ESD in fish, but evidence of a similar influence in reptiles is sparse and conflicting. The central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps) has a system of sex determination involving the interplay between sex chromosomes (ZZ/ZW female heterogamety) and the thermal environment. High egg incubation temperatures induce sex reversal of the ZZ genotype, feminizing chromosomally male individuals. Here we show that corticosterone elevation is not associated with sex reversal in the central bearded dragon, either during embryonic development or adulthood. We also demonstrate experimentally that sex determination is not affected by corticosterone injection into the yolk. This strongly suggests that stress axis upregulation by high temperature during incubation does not cause sex reversal in P. vitticeps. Our work is in general agreement with other research in reptiles, which suggests that the stress axis does not mediate sex in reptiles with ESD. Alternative biological systems may be responsible for capturing environmental conditions during reptile development, such as cellular calcium and redox regulation or the action of temperature-sensitive splicing factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-310
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


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