Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 179–184 | Cite as

Female choice on male quantitative traits in lizards — why is it so rare?

  • Mats Olsson
  • Thomas Madsen


Female choice on the basis of male traits has been described in an array of taxa but has rarely been demonstrated in reptiles. In the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), and possibly in other non-territorial reptiles, a male's contribution to a female's fitness is restricted to his genes. In order to choose males of high genetic quality, females have to trade the fitness gain against the costs of active choice. In a Swedish population of sand lizards, long-lived males sired offspring with higher embryonic survival compared to offspring sired by short-lived males. In spite of this female sand lizards did not mate selectively with older and/or larger males. There appeared to be mo reliable cues to male longevity; age-specific male body size was highly variable. Furthermore, estimates of male nuptial coloration did not covary with ectoparasite load and, hence, females cannot use male coloration as a cue to heritable resistance to pathogenic parasite effects. When cues to male genetic quality are poor, or inaccurate, and males make no parental investment, we predict that female choice will be rare. Sand lizard females mating with many partners lay clutches with higher hatching success. Thus, females may obtain “good genes” for their young by multiple mating, thereby avoiding costs associated with mate choice.

Key words

Lizard evolution Bright colors “Good genes” Female choice Sperm competition 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mats Olsson
    • 1
  • Thomas Madsen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Division of Animal EcologyUniversity of GöteborgGöteborgSweden
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesThe University of SydneyN. S. W.Australia

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