Parasite load and brightness in lizards: an interspecific test of the Hamilton and Zuk hypothesis



Hamilton & Zuk (1982) hypothesized a positive correlation between a species' sexual showiness and its level of parasitic infection. We tested the hypothesis in 26 species of lizards, members of a class of vertebrates never before used to test the model. The prevalence of parasites was determined using published lists of parasites found in wild lizard populations. An index of showiness (brightness) was derived by scoring photographs of lizards in natural settings. Contrary to expectations of Hamilton & Zuk (1982), we found an inverse correlation between a lizard species' brightness and parasite prevalence. No correlation was found between a species' brightness and the number of parasite genera, species, or percentage of individual infecting parasite taxa. These results are discussed in relation to other interspecific tests of the hypothesis.