Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Female lizard turns the table: Why exaggerated coloration makes her a good mate

Date:
January 26, 2011
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Most nature lovers know that the more colorful a male fish, reptile, or bird, the more likely it is to attract a female and to have healthy offspring. Females, on the other hand, tend to be drably colored, perhaps to avoid predators while carrying, incubating, and caring for young. Curiously, the female striped plateau lizard, which lives in the rocky slopes of Arizona's south-eastern mountains, is an exception to this rule in the animal world. Females are more colourful than males – displaying an orange patch on their throats during reproductive season – and the more colourful the female, the more robust are her offspring. New research has found one reason this may be so.

Most nature lovers know that the more colourful a male fish, reptile, or bird, the more likely it is to attract a female and to have healthy offspring. Females, on the other hand, tend to be drably coloured, perhaps to avoid predators while carrying, incubating, and caring for young.

Related Articles


Curiously, the female striped plateau lizard, which lives in the rocky slopes of Arizona's south-eastern mountains, is an exception to this rule in the animal world. Females are more colourful than males -- displaying an orange patch on their throats during reproductive season -- and the more colourful the female, the more robust are her offspring. New research published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Animal Ecology has found one reason this may be so.

The colours commonly seen in birds and fish -- the orange beak of zebra finches and the luminous colours of tropical fish -- are often generated by carotenoids, pigmented nutrients that are obtained through diet. These same carotenoids are also valuable to eggs as they act as antioxidants in the yolks, along with vitamins A and E, protecting the cells and assisting in development of the embryo. So if a female uses her limited dietary intake of carotenoids for ornamentation, it could adversely affect her eggs and offspring.

According to lead author Stacey Weiss, from University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, Wash., U.S.A.): "In the female striped plateau lizard the orange-coloured patches they develop during the reproductive season are based on pterin pigments, not on carotenoids, so this trade-off between ornaments and eggs may be eliminated."

In fact the research shows that the more colour there is on a female lizard, the more yolk antioxidants there are in her eggs. Ornament colour is also positively related to the yolk antioxidant concentration.

"Thus, in S. virgatus, female ornaments may advertise egg quality. In addition these data suggest that more-ornamented females may produce higher-quality offspring, in part because their eggs contain more antioxidants," says Weiss.

Weiss, and collaborators Eileen Kennedy at University of Puget Sound, Rebecca Safran at University of Colorado at Boulder, and Kevin McGraw at Arizona State University, report that the coloration in the female striped plateau lizard probably serves as a sexual signal attractive to males. In evolutionary terms this suggests that more colourful females produce healthier eggs and attract more and/or higher-quality male mates, ultimately producing high-quality offspring.

The research is the first example of a positive relationship between female ornamentation and yolk antioxidants in reptiles. It contributes to an understanding of the evolution of female ornaments and what role they may play. Female ornaments are less common than male ornaments in the animal kingdom, but they do occur, often as a weak expression of the male's typical colour. There has been little empirical examination of this phenomenon until recently. Further research into pterins may explore whether these compounds -- as with carotenoids -- do extract some cost from the mother or egg.

The research was supported by start-up funds and grants from University of Puget Sound.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stacey L. Weiss, Eileen A. Kennedy, Rebecca J. Safran, Kevin J. McGraw. Pterin-based ornamental coloration predicts yolk antioxidant levels in female striped plateau lizards (Sceloporus virgatus). Journal of Animal Ecology, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2010.01801.x

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Female lizard turns the table: Why exaggerated coloration makes her a good mate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110126194149.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2011, January 26). Female lizard turns the table: Why exaggerated coloration makes her a good mate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110126194149.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Female lizard turns the table: Why exaggerated coloration makes her a good mate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110126194149.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) In Africa's only biosafety level 4 laboratory, scientists have been carrying out experiments on bats to understand how virus like Ebola are being transmitted, and how some of them resist to it. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) Tryptophan, a chemical found naturally in turkey meat, gets blamed for sleepiness after Thanksgiving meals. But science points to other culprits. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins