Temperature Activation of Courtship Behavior in the Male Red-Sided Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis): Role of the Anterior Hypothalamus-Preoptic Area

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Adult male red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) received radio-frequency lesions prior to 17 weeks of low-temperature hibernation. Animals found to have bilateral lesions of the anterior hypothalamus-preoptic area (AH-POA) failed to exhibit courtship behavior on emergence from hibernation. Those individuals in which the major portion of the destruction was centered in the anterior POA also exhibited deficits in thermoregulatory behavior. Animals that received unilateral lesions of the AH-POA initiated courtship behavior after controls and had an abbreviated period of courtship; these animals exhibited normal responses to thermal stimuli. Male snakes with lesions outside the AH-POA courted normally and demonstrated no differences in thermoregulatory behavior compared with the surgical controls. These results indicate that in male red-sided garter snakes, an intact AH-POA is critical for the integration of thermal stimuli that activate seasonal courtship behavior.

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