Chemical polymorphism in male femoral gland secretions matches polymorphic coloration in common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis)
Previous studies showed that common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) are polymorphic in colour, both sexes showing three main ventral morphs (white, yellow and red) within the same population and that the three morphs correlate with many life-history traits, including a positive assortative mating according to colour. Chemical communication plays a key role in intra-specific recognition and in social organization of lizards; thus chemical cues might be involved in morph recognition and mate choice. We used gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) to investigate possible differences in the lipophilic fraction of femoral gland secretions between size/age classes and to explore whether chemical secretions match male colour morphs. As expected, most males shared the same compounds, but smaller males showed significantly higher proportions of aldehydes, alcohols and ketones and significantly lower proportions of tocopherols than larger males. Interestingly, inter-morph differences in the proportion of some compounds (especially tocopherols and furanones) matched ventral colour polymorphism. Pairwise comparisons showed that white lizards had significantly different chemical profiles than both the yellow and red ones, whereas differences between yellow and red males were only marginal. A further canonical analysis of principal coordinates correctly classified 67.2 % on average of the chemical profiles according to colour morph (white 85.0 %, red 60.9 %, yellow 57.1 %). We hypothesized that chemical differences associated with colour polymorphism may play a central role in intra-specific communication and even in sexual selection, allowing individuals to choose their partners according to their age, and more interestingly according to their colour morph, in a non-random mating population system.
KeywordsColour polymorphism Femoral gland secretions Furanones Lizards Podarcis muralis Tocopherol
We thank one anonymous reviewer for helpful comments, and Luis Cuadra and Elena Fernández for technical assistance with chemical analyses. Financial support was provided by the project MICIIN-CGL2011-24150/BOS. This research was supported by PhD grants (Doctorate in Experimental Ecology and Geobotany) from Pavia University to D. P.-R. and A. B.
The study was carried out in conformity with the Italian current laws for lizard collection and detention (Aut. Prot. DPN no. 2009-0016034).
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