, Volume 100, Issue 12, pp 1137–1147 | Cite as

Sexually dichromatic coloration reflects size and immunocompetence in female Spanish terrapins, Mauremys leprosa

  • Alejandro Ibáñez
  • Alfonso Marzal
  • Pilar López
  • José Martín
Original Paper


Many studies have shown the importance of colorful ornamentation in mate choosiness or intrasexual conflict. However, research on color ornaments has focused mainly on birds, lizards or fish, but remains practically unknown in other animal groups such as turtles. In addition, female ornaments and their relation with sexual selection also remain almost unknown. Here, we measured the coloration of the shell and the limb stripes of male and female Spanish terrapins Mauremys leprosa and explored the existence of sexual dichromatism and the relation of color characteristics with body size and health state estimated from the immune response to the injection of an antigen (phytohaemagglutinin test). Our results showed that shell coloration, which could be constrained by natural selection to be cryptic, changed with body size, but did not differ between sexes. In contrast, females had brighter and less ultraviolet-saturated and more orange-saturated limb stripes than males. In females, interindividual variation in limb stripe coloration was related with body size and immune response suggesting that this coloration may inform honestly about multiple traits that could be important in sexual selection. In contrast, coloration of limb stripes of males was duller than in females, and was not related with any trait suggesting that coloration is not important in sexual selection for males.


Visual signals Female ornaments Sexual dichromatism Immune response Sexual selection Turtles 



We thank five anonymous reviewers for helpful comments, A. Marzal and D. Martín for allowing us to work in their dehesa states (‘La Asesera’ and ‘Cabeza Rubia’), A. González and M. González for field assistance, and ‘El Ventorrillo’ MNCN Field Station for use of their facilities. Financial support was provided by a Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia MEC-FPI grant to A.I. and by the project of Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación MICIIN-CGL2011-24150/BOS.

Ethical Standards

Captures complied with all current laws of Spain and the Environmental Agency (‘Consejería de Industria, Energía y Medio Ambiente’) of the ‘Junta de Extremadura’ local government (permit number: CN0008/11/ACA).

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandro Ibáñez
    • 1
  • Alfonso Marzal
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pilar López
    • 1
  • José Martín
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, C.S.I.C.MadridSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Biología AnimalUniversidad de ExtremaduraBadajozSpain

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