Social interactions have lasting effects on behaviour and physiology in a variety of organisms. In the leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius, social experience alters neural metabolism and elevates circulating concentrations of androgens. In this study, we assessed the effects of social experience (housing with females versus housing in isolation) on the expression of social behaviours in male geckos (1) when gonadally intact, (2) following castration and (3) following testosterone administration. Given the neural and endocrine changes following social experience, we hypothesized that social experience would increase the capacity to display territorial and courtship behaviour in male leopard geckos. We found that intact males previously housed with females (experienced males) displayed more territorial marking and more activity when exposed to a neutral test arena relative to males housed in isolation (naïve males). Experienced males continued to show more marking and activity in the testing arena relative to naïve males following castration. However, the courtship behaviour of castrated naïve and experienced males did not differ significantly. Following testosterone administration, experienced males again showed more activity in the empty test arena and tended to show more courtship behaviour. In summary, we found support for the hypothesis that social experience leads to changes in territorial and courtship behaviours and, moreover, found that male leopard geckos share some degree of commonality with other vertebrates in behavioural plasticity following social experience. © 2002 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
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