Social competition, corticosterone and survival in female lizard morphs


Tosha Comendant, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Long Marine Lab, 100 Shaffer Rd, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA. Tel.: 831-818-0933;
fax: 831-459-3383;


We examined the selective consequences of variation in behaviour and endocrine physiology in two female throat-colour morphs of the lizard, Uta stansburiana in the wild. Female morphs differed in home-range distribution patterns and corticosterone levels in relation to the density and frequency of their female neighbours. Levels of plasma corticosterone of yellow-throated females increased with increased density of both morphs. In contrast, orange-throated females had reduced levels of corticosterone in response to increased density of orange females. Additionally, females with lower corticosterone survived poorly, suggesting that social interactions and high local densities of orange females may be potentially costly for orange females. These results are consistent with decreased fitness effects and suppression of immune function previously reported for orange female morphs surrounded by more orange neighbours. These correlations, in conjunction with previous work in this system, indicate that corticosterone is likely to be an important physiological mechanism regulating female fitness in nature.