, Volume 100, Issue 6, pp 551–558 | Cite as

Negative correlation between nuptial throat colour and blood parasite load in male European green lizards supports the Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis

  • Orsolya MolnárEmail author
  • Katalin Bajer
  • Boglárka Mészáros
  • János Török
  • Gábor Herczeg
Original Paper


During female mate choice, conspicuous male sexual signals are used to infer male quality and choose the best sire for the offspring. The theory of parasite-mediated sexual selection (Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis) presumes that parasite infection can influence the elaboration of sexual signals: resistant individuals can invest more energy into signal expression and thus advertise their individual quality through signal intensity. By preferring these males, females can provide resistance genes for their offspring. Previous research showed that nuptial throat colour of male European green lizard, Lacerta viridis, plays a role in both inter- and intrasexual selections as a condition-dependent multiple signalling system. The aim of this study was to test the predictions of the Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis on male European green lizards. By blood sampling 30 adult males during the reproductive season, we found members of the Haemogregarinidae family in all but one individual (prevalence = 96 %). The infection intensity showed strong negative correlation with the throat and belly colour brightness in line with the predictions of the Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis. In addition, we found other correlations between infection intensity and other fitness-related traits, suggesting that parasite load has a remarkable effect on individual fitness. This study shows that throat patch colour of the European green lizards not only is a multiple signalling system but also possibly acts as an honest sexual signal of health state in accordance with the Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis.


Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis Nuptial coloration Blood parasite Haemogregarinidae Lizard 



We would like to thank Prof. Joseph J. Schall for his indispensable help in identifying the blood parasites. We also thank Michael L. Logan for his useful comments and correcting the English. The study was supported by OTKA (Hungarian Scientific Research Fund, ref. no. F68403 and K105517). We thank Middle–Danube–Valley Environmental, Nature and Water Inspectorate for the permission to conduct this study (project no. 31203-3/2010).

Ethical standards

Experiments were performed according to the guidelines of the Hungarian Act of Animal Care and Experimentation (1998, XXVIII, section 243/ 1998), which conforms to the regulation of animal experiments by the European Union.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Orsolya Molnár
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Katalin Bajer
    • 2
    • 3
  • Boglárka Mészáros
    • 3
  • János Török
    • 3
  • Gábor Herczeg
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, Life Sciences CenterDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  2. 2.Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do NorteNatalBrazil
  3. 3.Behavioural Ecology Group, Department of Systematic Zoology and EcologyEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary

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