Water deprivation increases maternal corticosterone levels and enhances offspring growth in the snake Vipera aspis

Andréaz Dupoué, Frédéric Angelier, François Brischoux, Dale Denardo, Colette Trouvé, Charline Parenteau, Olivier Lourdais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Circulating glucocorticoid (GC) levels may increase as a result of reproductive effort or in response to unpredictable events. However, GC secretion can vary with the availability of vital trophic resources such as energy. While water represents another critical resource, the impact of water deprivation on GC secretion during reproduction has not yet been thoroughly investigated. Here, we examined the effects of water deprivation on plasma corticosterone (CORT) concentrations of female aspic vipers (Vipera aspis), and determined the impacts of water deprivation on offspring traits. We exposed both pregnant and non-reproductive females to a 20-day water deprivation and compared their pre- and post-deprivation CORT levels with those of control females. At the end of the treatment, only water-deprived pregnant females showed a significant increase in CORT levels. In pregnant females, changes in baseline CORT level were correlated with changes in female hydration state. Changes in baseline CORT levels were also negatively influenced by maternal reproductive effort in pregnant control females, while such a relationship was not apparent in pregnant water-deprived females. Finally, we found that offspring from water-deprived females had higher growth rates than offspring from control females. Offspring growth was also positively correlated with changes in both maternal osmolality and baseline CORT levels. Together, our results suggest that dehydration increases maternal CORT levels, which may subsequently influence offspring development. Further long-term field studies are therefore required to assess whether there is an adaptive significance of this response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)658-667
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Allostasis
  • Dehydration
  • Ectotherms
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Maternal effects
  • Reproductive effort

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Water deprivation increases maternal corticosterone levels and enhances offspring growth in the snake Vipera aspis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this