Aggressive Behavior and Courtship Rejection in Brightly and Plainly Colored Female Keeled Earless Lizards (Holbrookia propinqua)


Department of Biology, Auburn University at Montgomery, Montgomery, Alabama 36193, U.S.A.


Relationships between bright secondary sexual coloration and behavior were studied in female Holbrookia propinqua, which develop striking orange and yellow colors during the breeding season. In tethered introduction studies, brightly colored females performed aggressive courtship rejection behaviors toward conspecific males; plainly colored females were not aggressive toward males, but attempted to avoid them. Responses of females of the two color patterns toward conspecific females of both color phases were not detectably different. Experimental introductions of lizards with coloration modified by paint showed that females of both color patterns recognize any other lizard bearing the bright female colors as female, regardless of actual sex. Both the orange and yellow components were shown to contribute to sex recognition. The yellow component alone allowed accurate sex identification, but only half the females responded to males painted with only the orange female component as if they were females. Because females did not behave differently toward other females on the basis of coloration, the hypothesis that bright coloration evolved as an adaptive signal between females is rejected. The dark ventrolateral stripes of male and plainly colored females did not appear to affect intraspecific social responses by females.