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Naturwissenschaften. 2010 Jun;97(6):545-53. doi: 10.1007/s00114-010-0669-8. Epub 2010 Apr 24.

Multimodal sexual signals in male ocellated lizards Lacerta lepida: vitamin E in scent and green coloration may signal male quality in different sensory channels.

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Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, C.S.I.C., José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006, Madrid, Spain.


The mechanisms that confer honesty to multiple sexual signals of vertebrates remain less known. We suggest that vitamin E in the scent (femoral secretions) and carotenoids in coloration of Lacerta lepida lizards might advertise quality because they are relevant in metabolism as major antioxidants and have a dietary origin. Results showed that there may be similar trade-offs between immunity and both chemical and visual signaling, as males with more vitamin E in secretions and those with more greenish, darker, and saturated carotenoid-dependent colorations had a higher immune response. This suggests that only high-quality males can divert from metabolism and allocate enough vitamin E to secretions and enough carotenoids to coloration. Therefore, information provided by visual and chemical signals is congruent. The use of multiple sensory channels may allow signaling a male quality under different circumstances or reinforce the reliability of the signal when both signals are perceived simultaneously. However, we also found that characteristics of carotenoid-dependent coloration mirror the amounts of vitamin E in secretions. This might support that carotenoids, which are not true antioxidants in the organism, would just reflect and "inform" on the actual contents of metabolic antioxidant vitamin E, which is part of the true system that prevent oxidation. We suggest that the metabolic roles of vitamins might be the actual basis of honesty of many sexual displays, and that carotenoid-based signals might be just the visible part of the whole system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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