Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 68, Issue 4, pp 571–581

Relative contribution of dietary carotenoids and vitamin E to visual and chemical sexual signals of male Iberian green lizards: an experimental test

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00265-013-1672-9

Cite this article as:
Kopena, R., López, P. & Martín, J. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2014) 68: 571. doi:10.1007/s00265-013-1672-9


Carotenoid-based sexual ornaments are widespread, but the role of carotenoids as honest signalers in the trade-off between coloration and antioxidant protection remains controversial. It has been suggested that the function of carotenoids might not be an antioxidant per se, but that colorful carotenoids may indirectly reflect the levels of nonpigmentary antioxidants, such as melatonin or vitamin E. We experimentally fed male Iberian green lizards (Lacerta schreiberi) additional carotenoids or vitamin E alone, or a combination of carotenoids and vitamin E dissolved in soybean oil, whereas a control group only received soybean oil. We examined the effects of the dietary supplementations on characteristics of lizard sexual coloration and of the chemical profile of femoral gland secretions. Results indicated that both carotenoids and vitamin E in the diet increased the expression of some visual signals (head and chest, but not dorsum) in comparison to controls. However, different traits were differentially affected, and in many cases, the addition of vitamin E, alone or in combination with carotenoids, had a greater effect on the expression of coloration than the addition of carotenoids alone, even for carotenoid-dependent ornaments. Our results support the idea that other nonpigmentary antioxidants, such as vitamin E, are needed in addition to carotenoids to increase the expression of coloration of L. schreiberi lizards. Therefore, coloration may only indirectly reflect the levels of nonpigmentary antioxidants. In contrast, an increase in dietary nonpigmentary antioxidant vitamin E was directly reflected in the chemical signals. Because of an observed concordance between visual and chemical signals, we suggest that both may be used in different contexts albeit conveying similar messages in different sensory channels.


Sexual colorationFemoral secretionsAntioxidantsLizardsSexual ornaments

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, C.S.I.CMadridSpain