Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Color of passion: Orange underbellies of female lizards signal fertility

Date:
February 27, 2014
Source:
Frontiers
Summary:
Australian lizards are attracted to females with the brightest orange patches -- but preferably not too large -- on their underbelly, according to research. Lake Eyre dragon lizards are found exclusively in salt deserts in southern Australia, where they feed on dead insects. When females become fertile they develop bright orange patches on their normally pale underbelly and change their behavior towards males: instead of "waving them away" with their forelegs or fleeing, they let the males court them with showy behavior like push-ups and head bobs. Males were most attracted to females with small, bright orange patches and tended to avoid those with larger, paler ones. It is thought that bright color is attractive as it indicates peak female fertility. Pregnant females retain their coloration until laying and very large orange spots suggest the female is swollen with eggs and no longer interested in mating.

Australian lizards are attracted to females with the brightest orange patches -- but preferably not too large -- on their underbelly, according to research published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Lake Eyre dragon lizards, Ctenophorus maculosus, are found exclusively in salt deserts in southern Australia, where they feed on dead insects blown onto the salt crust. When females become fertile they develop bright orange patches on their normally pale underbelly and change their behavior towards males: instead of "waving them away" with their forelegs or fleeing, they let the males court them with showy behavior like push-ups and head bobs.

Dr. Devi Stuart-Fox and Jennifer Goode, both of the Zoology Department at the University of Melbourne, Australia, attempted to determine what was more important in driving courtship: the female's color or the behavior that accompanies different reproductive statuses.

Females at different reproductive stages -- fertile, pregnant, or non-receptive -- were decorated with paints closely matched to the natural colors of the female lizard. The paints were used to either cover up natural orange patches or apply fake ones. As natural lizard color reflects ultraviolet (UV) light, the researchers used specialized UV-reflecting paints to accurately mimic female coloration. The painted females were then allowed to interact with males and the behavior of both sexes was observed.

Males targeted the orange painted females more frequently than white ones, regardless of the females' actual reproductive state. They were most attracted to females with small, bright orange patches and tended to avoid those with larger, paler ones. It is thought that bright color is attractive as it indicates peak female fertility. Pregnant females retain their coloration until laying and very large orange spots suggest the female is swollen with eggs and no longer interested in mating.

But male behavior was more strongly determined by the female's reproductive status. Males also mated more frequently with fertile females than pregnant ones or those outside of the breeding cycle. This is consistent with female behavioral acceptance of courting and mating during this stage. Frustrated males often behaved aggressively -- with chases and bites -- towards pregnant females.

If males persist with sexually aggressive behavior, pregnant females have a final ace up their sleeves -- they flip over onto their backs and display their orange patterning. This position prevents copulation and the bright orange color displayed is believed to have the added benefit of confusing and warding off predatory birds who might catch sight of the vulnerable female lizard.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Devi Stuart-Fox, Jennifer L. Goode. Female ornamentation influences male courtship investment in a lizard. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2014; 2 DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2014.00002

Cite This Page:

Frontiers. "Color of passion: Orange underbellies of female lizards signal fertility." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227164524.htm>.
Frontiers. (2014, February 27). Color of passion: Orange underbellies of female lizards signal fertility. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227164524.htm
Frontiers. "Color of passion: Orange underbellies of female lizards signal fertility." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227164524.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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