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Size variation and cell proliferation in chemosensory brain areas of a lizard (Podarcis hispanica): effects of sex and season


Dr C. Sampedro, as above.


Many lizards rely on chemoreception for crucial aspects of their biology, including exploration, prey and predator detection, and intraspecific communication. Here we investigate sex and seasonal variation in size and proliferative activity in chemosensory areas of the lizard brain. We captured adult Iberian wall lizards (Podarcis hispanica) of either sex in the breeding (April) and non-breeding (November) season, injected them with 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) and killed them 3 weeks later. We removed the brains, measured the length of the olfactory bulbs, and counted BrdU-labelled cells in the main and accessory olfactory bulbs (MOB, AOB), lateral cortex (LC) and nucleus sphericus (NS). Our results show that, relative to body size, males have larger MOBs and AOBs than females; however, relative to brain size, males have larger AOBs, but not larger MOBs than females. Additionally, males produce more new cells than females in the olfactory bulbs, LC and NS. We failed to detect significant seasonal changes or sex × season interaction in size or proliferative activity in these areas. Sex differences in the addition of newly generated cells – mainly neurons – may be partly responsible for the size differences in chemosensory brain areas. The presence of sexual dimorphism in AOB is expected given the available behavioural evidence, which suggests that males of P. hispanica are more responsive than females to socially relevant chemical stimuli. This is the first demonstration of sexual dimorphism in size and proliferative activity in chemosensory areas of a non-mammalian species.