, Volume 96, Issue 1, pp 65–69 | Cite as

Immune activation affects chemical sexual ornaments of male Iberian wall lizards

Original Paper


Many animals use chemical signals in sexual selection, but it is not clear how these sexual traits might have evolved to signal honestly male condition. It is possible that there is a trade-off between maintaining the immune system and the elaboration of ornaments. We experimentally challenged the immune system of male Iberian wall lizards, Podarcis hispanica, with a bacterial antigen (lipopolysaccharide), without pathogenic effects, to explore whether the immune activation affected chemical ornaments. Immune activation resulted in decreased proportions of a major chemical in femoral secretions (cholesta-5,7-dien-3-ol = provitamin D3) known to be selected in scent of males by females and which active form (vitamin D) has a variety of important effects on immune system function. This result suggests the existence of a potential trade-off between physiological regulation of the immune system and the allocation of essential nutrients (vitamins) to sexual chemical ornaments in male lizards.


Sexual signals Immune response Femoral glands Vitamin D Sexual selection 



We thank three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and “El Ventorrillo” MNCN Field Station for use of their facilities. Financial support was provided by the projects MEC-CGL2005-00391/BOS and MCI-CGL2008-02119/BOS and by an “El Ventorrillo” CSIC grant to MG. The experiments enforced all Spanish laws and were performed under license from the Environmental Organisms of Madrid Community.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

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

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