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A structural colour ornament correlates positively with parasite load and body condition in an insular lizard species

AuthorsMegía-Palma, Rodrigo M.; Martínez, Javier ; Merino, Santiago
KeywordsSexual selection
Hamilton and Zuk hypothesis
Handicap Principle
Island ecology
Issue DateAug-2016
Gesellschaft Deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte
CitationNaturwissenschaften 103(7-8): 52 (2016)
AbstractPigment-based ornaments in vertebrates may reflect the body condition or health status of the individual in correlation with environmental stress and hormonal balance. Among the environmental factors shaping sexual colouration, parasitic infections have been stressed as an important evolutionary pressure constraining the maintenance of pigment-based ornaments. However, the honesty of structure-based ornaments in vertebrates is still under debate. Structural UV-biased ornaments in Gallotia lizards were described as a trait used by conspecifics during mate and rival assessment suggesting the reliability of these signals. We investigated the relationship between parasitaemia, body condition and a structural-based ornament present in the cheek of the sexually dichromatic Canarian lacertid Gallotia galloti in a population with an almost 100 % prevalence of haemoparasites. Using spectrophotometric techniques, we found that males with higher values of cheek UV chroma were infected with more haemoparasites. No significant relationship was found between haemoparasite load and body condition. However, males with higher cheek UV chroma showed significantly better body condition. In addition, we found that cheek hue was significantly related to body condition of individuals in both sexes. In males, cheek reflectivity biased towards the UV range was significantly related to better body condition. In females, those individuals with better body condition showed more whitish cheeks with less UV suggesting that cheek hue serves as an intersexual signal for sex recognition. We conclude that the positive relationship between cheek chroma and parasite load in male lizards is compatible with both differential density of melanin and iridophore arrangement in the dermis conveying an individual’s ability to cope with environmental stress.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1007/s00114-016-1378-8
e-issn: 1432-1904
issn: 0028-1042
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