, Volume 100, Issue 6, pp 551-558
Date: 05 May 2013

Negative correlation between nuptial throat colour and blood parasite load in male European green lizards supports the Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis

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During female mate choice, conspicuous male sexual signals are used to infer male quality and choose the best sire for the offspring. The theory of parasite-mediated sexual selection (Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis) presumes that parasite infection can influence the elaboration of sexual signals: resistant individuals can invest more energy into signal expression and thus advertise their individual quality through signal intensity. By preferring these males, females can provide resistance genes for their offspring. Previous research showed that nuptial throat colour of male European green lizard, Lacerta viridis, plays a role in both inter- and intrasexual selections as a condition-dependent multiple signalling system. The aim of this study was to test the predictions of the Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis on male European green lizards. By blood sampling 30 adult males during the reproductive season, we found members of the Haemogregarinidae family in all but one individual (prevalence = 96 %). The infection intensity showed strong negative correlation with the throat and belly colour brightness in line with the predictions of the Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis. In addition, we found other correlations between infection intensity and other fitness-related traits, suggesting that parasite load has a remarkable effect on individual fitness. This study shows that throat patch colour of the European green lizards not only is a multiple signalling system but also possibly acts as an honest sexual signal of health state in accordance with the Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis.

Communicated by: Sven Thatje