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Do Male Veiled Chameleons, Chamaeleo calyptratus, Adjust their Courtship Displays in Response to Female Reproductive Status?


Erin C. Kelso Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA. E-mail:


Variation in male courtship behavior may be due to inherent differences among males or may arise from males adjusting their courtship displays according to female responsiveness. Female veiled chameleons, Chamaeleo calyptratus, exhibit two distinctive suites of body coloration and behavior patterns that vary according to receptive and non-receptive stages of their reproductive cycle. We presented male chameleons with both receptive and non-receptive females, and recorded differences in their mating frequency, courtship intensity and courtship behavior patterns. As expected, males were more likely to court and attempt mating with receptive females. Although fewer males courted non-receptive females, their courtship displays were significantly longer than those directed towards receptive females. Males also adjusted the contents of their displays according to female reproductive condition. Certain behavior patterns were unique to courtship displays directed towards each class of females. Males exhibited the behavior pattern `head roll' only when paired with receptive females, and `chin rub' was displayed only during courtship of non-receptive females. We hypothesize that these differences in male courtship frequency, intensity and content reflect differences in female reproductive value. Although males may benefit from mating with both receptive and non-receptive females, the costs associated with courtship may depend on female responsiveness. Thus, males adjust their courtship tactics accordingly.