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Malarial parasitism and male competition for mates in the western fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis


The effect of malarial parasitism on the ability of male western fence lizards, Sceloporus occidentalis, to compete for access to females was assessed experimentally. Pairs of male lizards, one infected with the malarial parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum, and the other not infected, were matched by size and color and placed in large seminatural outdoor enclosures along with an adult female lizard. Infected males displayed to females and to other males less often than did noninfected male lizards. Noninfected lizards were dominant in social interactions more often than malarious animals, based on duration and intensity of agonistic encounters toward the other male, and time spent with the female. Thus, malarial infection hinders the ability of male fence lizards to compete for mates.

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Correspondence to J. J. Schall.

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Schall, J.J., Dearing, M.D. Malarial parasitism and male competition for mates in the western fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis . Oecologia 73, 389–392 (1987).

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Key words

  • Mate competition
  • Parasitism
  • Malaria
  • Lizards
  • Sceloporus