Chemical rival recognition decreases aggression levels in male Iberian wall lizards, Podarcis hispanica
- Cite this article as:
- López, P. & Martín, J. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2002) 51: 461. doi:10.1007/s00265-001-0447-x
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In an agonistic interaction, the assessment of the probable outcome of future encounters with the same individuals may be the best way of decreasing costs of fighting, but this may only be accomplished if animals are able to recognize individual conspecifics. We staged encounters between male lizards, Podarcis hispanica, to examine whether odoriferous cues are involved in rival recognition during agonistic interactions. We experimentally manipulated the odour of intruding males, creating familiar males with their own odour or bearing odours of unfamiliar males, and unfamiliar males bearing unfamiliar odours or odours of familiar males. The results showed that when familiar males were impregnated with scents from unfamiliar males, they elicited an aggressive response by resident unmanipulated males similar to that observed for a new unfamiliar male with unfamiliar odour. This suggests that resident males were unable to recognize familiar males when their own scents were removed. In contrast, responding males were less aggressive towards familiar males impregnated with their own odour and towards unfamiliar males impregnated with scents of familiar males, suggesting that when two males have already interacted, their scents become familiar for both males, and that the detection in successive encounters of the familiar scent suffices to reduce the aggressive response of territorial males. Therefore, recognition mechanisms based on chemical cues during agonistic encounters may contribute to reducing the intensity and the costs of fighting in P. hispanica and may play an important role in the organization of their social system.