, Volume 63, Issue 12, pp 1743-1755
Date: 30 May 2009

Multiple color signals may reveal multiple messages in male Schreiber’s green lizards, Lacerta schreiberi

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Multiple traits may either signal different characteristics of a male or be redundant. These multiple signals may convey different messages if they are intended for different receivers (e.g., male or females) that have different interests. We examined the functions of multiple colorful visual traits of male Schreiber’s green lizard (Lacerta schreiberi). Results showed that interindividual variation in the characteristics of coloration of males can be related to variation in morphology, health state, dominance status, and pairing status, but that different relationships were found for each color signal. For example, dominant males had brighter “blue” throat and with higher values of ultraviolet (UV) and bluish coloration and darker and greenish dorsal coloration than subordinate males. Health state was also reflected in coloration; males with a higher immune response had “blue” throats with lower amounts of UV coloration, but had “yellow” chests with higher amounts of UV coloration. Males found guarding females also differed in coloration from males found alone. These data suggest that characteristics of coloration of the different multiple signals may reveal different messages for different receivers, either male or female conspecifics. The development of the different signals, based on different morphological and physiological mechanisms and trade-offs, may allow signal reliability of multiple colorful traits in different social contexts.

Communicated by W. Cooper