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Chemosensory Recognition of Familiar and Unfamiliar Conspecifics by Juveniles of the Iberian Wall Lizard Podarcis hispanica


Enrique Font Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, Apdo. 2085, 46071 Valencia, Spain. E-mail:


Chemosensory recognition of familiar conspecifics has been reported in studies with members of several lizard families and may be advantageous to distinguish between intruders and neighbors or group members. However, few species have been studied and information on the ability to discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics by chemosensory means is lacking for most lizard families. In this paper we ask whether juveniles of the Iberian wall lizard Podarcis hispanica (Lacertidae), can discriminate between chemical signals from familiar conspecifics with whom they have shared a terrarium for several months and those from unfamiliar conspecifics housed in a different terrarium. Experimental trials were conducted by transferring juveniles to a test terrarium with a filter paper substrate. We tested the responses of lizards to paper substrates labeled by familiar cage-mates, unfamiliar conspecifics, or unlabeled. Tongue-flicks and other behaviors in response to pheromonal stimuli were recorded for 10 min Juveniles directed more chemosensory behavior towards paper substrates bearing chemicals from familiar conspecifics than towards similar paper substrates labeled by unfamiliar conspecifics. These results indicate that juveniles in this lizard species can recognize familiar conspecifics and discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar individuals using only chemical stimuli. We discuss the role of habituation in familiar conspecific recognition and review possible explanations of the functional significance of this type of discrimination in lizards.