Skin lipids of the striped plateau lizard (Sceloporus virgatus) correlate with female receptivity and reproductive quality alongside visual ornaments
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Sex pheromones can perform a variety of functions ranging from revealing the location of suitable mates to being honest signals of mate quality, and they are used in the mate selection process by many species of reptile. In this study, we determined whether the skin lipids of female striped plateau lizards (Sceloporus virgatus) can predict the reproductive quality of females, thereby having the potential to serve as pheromones. Using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, we identified 17 compounds present in skin lipids of female lizards. Using principal component analysis to compare the skin lipid profile of receptive and non-receptive females, we determined that an uncharacterized compound may allow for chemical identification of receptive mates. We also compared extracted principal components to measures of female fitness and reproductive qualities and found that the level of two 18 carbon fatty acids present in a female’s skin lipids may indicate her clutch size. Finally, we compared the information content of the skin lipids to that of female-specific color ornaments to assess whether chemical and visual cues transmit different information or not. We found that the chroma of a female’s orange throat patch is also related to her clutch size, suggesting that chemical signals may reinforce the information communicated by visual ornamentation in this species which would support the “backup signals” hypothesis for multiple signals.
KeywordsChemical cues Lizards Multimodal communication Pheromones Reptilian Skin lipids
We thank Eric Scharrer and John Hanson for their help with chemical analysis, James Bernhard for statistical help, and Mark Martin for helpful comments on an early draft of the manuscript. We also thank all the staff and volunteers at the Southwestern Research Station.
Funding was provided by the Murdock Charitable Trust (to SLW) and University of Puget Sound McCormick Scholar Award (to JKG).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This work was conducted under Arizona Game and Fish scientific collecting permit SP603461 and with University of Puget Sound IACUC approval (F0708-01). All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.
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