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Male mate choice based on female coloration in a lizard: The role of a juvenile trait

AuthorsBelliure, Josabel; Fresnillo, Belén; Cuervo, José Javier
KeywordsMale mate choice
Female coloration
Fertility signaling
Acanthodactylus erythrurus
Sexual selection
Spiny-footed lizard
Issue DateJun-2018
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationBehavioral Ecology 29(3): 543-552 (2018)
AbstractFemale mate choice for male display traits is widely observed across animal taxa and is a well-established mechanism of evolution. However, males are increasingly seen to exhibit mate choice for female display traits, even in species with traditional sex roles, although this continues to be an understudied aspect of sexual selection. We evaluated the role of female coloration on male mate choice decisions in the spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus), a species in which adult females show red coloration as a retained juvenile trait. Although both sexes show red tails as juveniles and subadults, only females maintain red colored tails when becoming adult; moreover, this coloration is only present at the beginning of female adulthood and becomes white after ovulation, suggesting a mating-related function. Male courtship preferences were investigated through an experimental approach, where they were offered pairs of females that differed in size (adult/subadult) and tail coloration (red/white). Male lizards preferred adult females using both visual and chemical cues and, when adult female coloration could be chosen, they preferred red females. These results suggest that red coloration is a sexual signal involved in male mate selection. We hypothesize that red coloration in adult females might indicate sexual maturity and a pre-ovulatory reproductive status. Being a juvenile trait retained until the beginning of adulthood, we also suggest that it might indicate reduced risk of sperm competition. This study highlights the role of a juvenile trait for sexual selection and adds to the understanding of the evolution of male mate choice.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/ary005
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