Iberian Rock Lizards (Lacerta monticola cyreni) Assess Conspecific Information Using Composite Signals from Faecal Pellets


Departamento de Ecologia Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC. José Gutierrez Abascal 2, E-28006 Madrid, Spain. E-mail: Pilar. Lopez@fresno.csic.es


A field and laboratory study was performed to analyse the role of excrement deposited on the substrate in intraspecific communication of the Iberian rock-lizard (Lacerta monticola cyreni). In the field, lizards selected specific sites on rocks to deposit faecal pellets, probably in order to facilitate visual location of pellets by conspecifics. Differential tongue flick rates to chemicals presented on cotton swabs demonstrated that male lizards can detect and discriminate between self-produced scents from faecal pellets and those of other conspecific males. In a subsequent experiment, male lizards were tested in a chamber with two platforms containing a faecal pellet of other male on one side and a control artificial pellet on the opposite side. Males spent significantly less time on the side containing the faecal pellet, suggesting that the decision of where to stay may depend on the presence of faecal pellets. Smaller males moved less than larger males on the experimental side whereas on the control side body size did not influence the proportion of time moving. The ability to discriminate chemicals from faeces, and the effects of faecal pellets on lizard behaviour, suggests that faeces might act as composite signals (visual and chemical) in the intraspecific communication of this lizard.