Secondary sexual traits and associated behaviors can be influenced by environmental factors such as exposure to stressors. Such effects may be mediated by the physiological stress response, which is typified by the release of glucocorticoid hormones. The effects of glucocorticoids on sexual traits such as plumage and display coloration have most commonly been studied in isolation rather than in conjunction with other pertinent aspects of signalling, such as behavior and habitat use, though these have substantial potential to alter signal perception. Here we test the effects of corticosterone (CORT), a common glucocorticoid, on a secondary sexual trait (badge coloration) in male eastern fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus), and behaviors associated with its expression. We show that neither baseline nor experimentally manipulated CORT levels were associated with badge coloration. Further, elevation of CORT levels in the field did not alter signalling or associated territorial behaviors. There was a trend for CORT-treatment to influence perch height selection, which may influence signal perception. We suggest that future studies investigating the effects of environmental stressors and associated physiological changes on secondary sexual traits should consider behaviors and ecology relevant to signal perception in order to best understand the influence of stressors in nature.
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