Afternoon T: Testosterone level is higher in red than yellow male polychromatic lizards



Publication Details

Olsson, M. M., Healey, M. and Astheimer, L. (2007). Afternoon T: Testosterone level is higher in red than yellow male polychromatic lizards. Physiology and Behavior, 91 531-534.


Recent work on within-species polymorphism across a broad range of taxa has renewed and considerably increased the attention to this classic evolutionary area, notably in lizard species where colors covary with reproductive strategies. We demonstrate elsewhere that red-headed males beat yellow-headed males in staged contests for females in the Australian painted dragon lizard Ctenophorus pictus. This morph difference in behaviour is linked to what appears to be a convention of red dominance in male–male interactions set very early in ontogeny, long before coloration has developed. In the current note, we investigate the relationship between time of day, which is directly linked to vigilance time in territorial males, and plasma levels of testosterone and corticosterone. We show that red males have higher testosterone levels in late afternoon following a day of territory patrolling and a non-significant trend in plasma corticosterone levels that decline with time of day. In conclusion, there are significant differences in testosterone profile between the two color morphs, providing a potential proximate link to the behavioural differences between them.

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