Male dwarf chameleons assess risk of courting large, aggressive females

Devi M. Stuart-Fox*, Martin J. Whiting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Conflict between the sexes has traditionally been studied in terms of costs of mating to females and female resistance. However, courting can also be costly to males, especially when females are larger and aggressively resist copulation attempts. We examined male display intensity towards females in the Cape dwarf chameleon, Bradypodion pumilum, in which females are larger than males and very aggressive. We assessed whether aggressive female rejection imposes potential costs on males and whether males vary their display behaviour with intensity of female rejection, female size or relative size differences. Males persisted in courtship after initial female rejection in 84% of trials, and were bitten in 28% of trials. Attempted mounts were positively associated with males being bitten. Males reduced courtship with increased intensity of female rejection. Male courtship behaviour also varied with female size: males were more likely to court and approach smaller females, consistent with the hypothesis that larger females can inflict more damage. These results suggest that, in addition to assessing female willingness to mate, male dwarf chameleons may use courtship displays to assess potential costs of persistence, including costs associated with aggressive female rejection, weighed against potential reproductive pay-offs associated with forced copulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-234
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


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