Reliable signaling by chemical cues of male traits and health state in male lizards, Lacerta monticola

J Chem Ecol. 2006 Feb;32(2):473-88. doi: 10.1007/s10886-005-9012-9. Epub 2006 Mar 23.


In spite of the importance of chemoreception in social organization and sexual selection of lizards, there is a lack of general knowledge on how the characteristics of chemical signals mediate these behaviors. Moreover, it is unknown which are the mechanisms that might confer honesty to the information provided by chemical signals. We analyzed here whether characteristics of the lipophilic fraction of femoral gland secretions of Lacerta monticola male lizards can be related to the morphology, physical condition, and health state of the sender. Our results indicated that some male traits, such as body size, number of blue spots, and number of femoral pores and their level of fluctuating asymmetry, were related to variability in the relative proportions of some lipophilic chemical compounds found in secretions. Thus, conspecifics could obtain reliable information on the producer of a scent mark based on chemicals alone, and this might be the basis of female choice observed in this lizard. Moreover, only males with a greater T-cell immune response had higher proportions of two steroids (ergosterol and dehydrocholesterol) in their femoral secretions, which might suggest that the signal is honest and costly to produce. We suggest that only high-quality males could divert these compounds from metabolism to secretions in order to produce an exaggerated and honest "chemical ornament."

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size
  • Cephalometry
  • Edema / chemically induced
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Foot / pathology
  • Hindlimb / anatomy & histology
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Lizards / anatomy & histology
  • Lizards / parasitology
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Male
  • Pheromones / chemistry
  • Pheromones / physiology*
  • Phytohemagglutinins / pharmacology


  • Pheromones
  • Phytohemagglutinins