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Scent may signal fighting ability in male Iberian rock lizards

By José Martín and Pilar López


Intrasexual competition favours the evolution of conspicuous fighting ability badges. However, in spite of the fact that chemoreception is important in sexual selection of many animals, such as lizards, the role of chemical signals in males' contests is relatively unknown. Here, we show that proportions of cholesterol in femoral gland secretions of male Iberian rock lizards were related to their body size (which confers a competitive advantage in fights). Males discriminated chemically and responded aggressively to cholesterol stimuli presented on swabs. Moreover, we experimentally increased cholesterol in the scent of males, and staged encounters in neutral cages between two unfamiliar and size-matched males. Focal males lost more agonisitic interactions against males manipulated with cholesterol than in control tests. We suggest that differences in scent composition may reliably signal fighting ability in many lizard species, which would help to avoid the costs of fighting

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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