The influence of female size on the extent and intensity of mate guarding by males in Chamaeleo chamaeleon

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Abstract

In ectotherms, the size of the female correlates with fecundity and thus, males prefer large more fecund females as potential mates in some species. The idea that the extent and intensity of mate guarding are also size-related was tested in the common chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon. Mate guarding was studied in 43 radio-tagged females during 3 years in a population in southern Spain. The extent and intensity of male guarding of their mates varied greatly. On average, the guarding started on 20 August and ended on 2 September (mean duration = 12.6 days, range 2–44 days, n= 35; six females were not guarded). Guarding continued for some days after mating (range = 0-13 days, n= 16). Guarding intensity (mean = 65.8% of net observation time with a guarding mate, range = 23–90, n= 27) and number of guarding males (mean = 1.8, range = 1–7) also varied greatly. The extent and intensity of mate guarding was strongly influenced by female size and the guarding period after mating: large females were guarded early in the season, for longer periods, and more intensively than small ones. Large females were also guarded for longer periods after mating. The overall variation in the guarding period was due to the duration of guarding before mating which was longer for large females. To my knowledge, this is the first time that prolonged mate guarding of larger females has been reported.

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