How accurately do behavioural observations predict reproductive success in free-ranging lizards?

Mats Olsson*, Tonia S. Schwartz, Erik Wapstra, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Behavioural ecologists often use data on patterns of male - female association to infer reproductive success of free-ranging animals. For example, a male seen with several females during the mating season is predicted to father more offspring than a male not seen with any females. We explored the putative correlation between this behaviour and actual paternity (as revealed by microsatellite data) from a long-term study on sand lizards (Lacerta agilis), including behavioural observations of 574 adult males and 289 adult females, and paternity assignment of more than 2500 offspring during 1998 - 2007. The number of males that contributed paternity to a female's clutch was correlated with the number of males seen accompanying her in the field, but not with the number of copulation scars on her body. The number of females that a male accompanied in the field predicted the number of females with whom he fathered offspring, and his annual reproductive success (number of progeny). Although behavioural data explained less than one-third of total variance in reproductive success, our analysis supports the utility of behavioural-ecology studies for predicting paternity in free-ranging reptiles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190030
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • fitness
  • Lacertidae
  • reproductive output
  • reptile
  • Sweden


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