Femoral secretions and copulatory plugs convey chemical information about male identity and dominance status in Iberian rock lizards (Lacerta monticola)

  • Pedro L. Moreira
  • Pilar López
  • José Martín
Original Article


Socially dominant males often signal their status to rival males and/or females. We tested the hypotheses that Lacerta monticola femoral gland secretions and copulatory plugs convey chemical information about male identity and dominance status. We estimated male dominance status by staging male–male agonistic encounters in a neutral arena. We then conducted two experiments to compare male tongue-flick behavior toward chemical stimuli consisting of cotton swabs bearing (1) deionized water (control), the lizard’s own femoral secretions, and the femoral secretions of another male and (2) phosphate-buffered saline solution (control), the lizard’s own plug products, and the plug products of another male. Results indicate that males discriminated their own femoral secretions and plugs from those of other males. They also discriminated morphological attributes of other males that were associated with dominance status based on chemical cues arising from femoral secretions and discriminated the dominance status of other males based on chemical cues arising from the plugs. Femoral secretions that convey information about male identity and dominance status may be hypothesized to function in the establishment of L. monticola dominance hierarchies through scent-marking of territories. We suggest that copulatory plugs and femoral secretions may allow males to scent-mark the female body and postulate that this behavior may influence male and female reproductive decisions under selective pressures of sperm competition.


Chemical signals Copulatory plugs Femoral gland secretions Social dominance Sperm competition 



We thank El Ventorrillo MNCN field station for use of their facilities. Research was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (SFRH/BPD/14939/2004) to PM, by the MEC project CGL2005-00391/BOSM, and conducted under license from Instituto da Conservação da Natureza—Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela, Portugal.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pedro L. Moreira
    • 1
  • Pilar López
    • 2
  • José Martín
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro de Biologia AmbientalFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSICMadridSpain

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