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Blood corticosterone levels and intersexual selection games: best-of-bad-job strategies of male common lizards
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Glucocorticoids affect physiology and behaviour, reproduction and potentially sexual selection as well. Shortterm and moderate glucocorticoid elevations are suggested to be adaptive, and prolonged and high elevations may be extremely harmful. This suggests that optimal reproductive strategies, and thus sexual selection, may be dose dependent. Here, we investigate effects of moderate and high elevations of blood corticosterone levels on intra- and intersexual behaviour and mating success of male common lizards Lacerta vivipara. Females showed less interest and more aggressive behaviour towards high corticosterone males and blood corticosterone levels affected male reproductive strategy. Males of moderate and high corticosterone elevations, compared with Control males, showed increased interest (i.e., higher number of chases, tongue extrusions, and approaches) towards females and high corticosterone males initiated more copulation attempts. However, neither increased male interest nor increased copulation attempts resulted in more copulations. This provides evidence for a best-of-a-bad-job strategy, where males with higher corticosterone levels compensated for reduced female interest and increased aggressive female behaviour directed towards them, by showing higher interest and by conducting more copulation attempts. Blood corticosterone levels affected intrasexual selection as well since moderate corticosterone levels positively affected male dominance, but dominance did not affect mating success. These findings underline the importance of female mate choice and are in line with adaptive compensatory behaviours of males. They further show that glucocorticoid effects on behaviour are dose dependent and that they have important implications for sexual selection and social interactions, and might potentially affect Darwinian fitness.
Behavioural stress response, Intersexual selection, Intrasexual selection, Lacertids, Sexual signal
Web of science
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