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Horm Behav. 2000 Dec;38(4):222-33.

Testosterone, endurance, and Darwinian fitness: natural and sexual selection on the physiological bases of alternative male behaviors in side-blotched lizards.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA.


The mechanistic bases of natural and sexual selection on physiological and behavioral traits were examined in male morphs of three colors of the side-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana. Orange-throated males are aggressive and defend large territories with many females. Blue-throated males defend smaller territories with fewer females; however, blue-throated males assiduously mate guard females on their territory. Yellow-throated males do not defend a territory, but patrol a large home range. They obtain secretive copulations from females on the territories of dominant males. Males with bright orange throats had higher levels of plasma testosterone (T), endurance, activity, and home range size and concomitantly gained greater control over female home ranges than blue- or yellow-throated males. Experimentally elevating plasma T in yellow- and blue-throated males increased their endurance, activity, home range size, and control over female territories to levels that were seen in unmanipulated orange-throated males that had naturally high plasma T. However, the enhanced performance of orange-throated males is not without costs. Orange-throated males had low survival compared to the other morphs. Finally, some yellow-throated males transformed to a partial blue morphology late in the season and the endurance of these transforming yellow-throated males increased from early to late in the season. In addition, yellow-throated males that transformed to blue also had significantly higher plasma T late in the season compared to the plasma T earlier in the season. T appears to play an important role in the physiological changes that all three color morphs undergo during the process of maturation. In some yellow males, T plays an additional role in plastic changes in behavior and physiology late in the reproductive season. We discuss natural and sexual selection on physiological and behavioral traits that leads to the evolution of steroid regulation in the context of alternative male strategies.

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