acta ethologica

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 19–27 | Cite as

Aggressiveness during monogamous pairing in the sleepy lizard, Tiliqua rugosa: a test of the mate guarding hypothesis

Original Article


The Australian sleepy lizard, Tiliqua rugosa, maintains monogamous associations for an average of 6 weeks before mating each spring. One hypothesis to explain this prolonged partnership is that males are guarding their female partners from rival males. This hypothesis has three predictions, that males are more aggressive than females to conspecific males, that male aggression will increase as the time of mating gets closer, and that males will be more aggressive towards conspecific males when they are with their partner than when they are alone. We tested those predictions with indirect evidence of aggression, using counts of scale damage on randomly encountered lizards, and with direct observations of their responses to approaches by conspecific and heterospecific models. As predicted by the mate guarding hypothesis, males showed more evidence of aggression towards conspecifics than did females. However, in contrast to the hypothesis, males did not become more aggressive as the time of mating came closer, and males in pairs were less aggressive than males on their own. Mate guarding cannot be the only process that has led to the prolonged monogamous associations in this species. Parental care is also unknown in these lizards, and we suggest that monogamy may be maintained through some form of female coercion, allowing females to gain additional fitness from the enhanced vigilance that results from male proximity.


Lizard Monogamy Mate guarding Aggression Tiliqua rugosa 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag and ISPA 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesFlinders University of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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