Sexual coloration and sperm performance in the Australian painted dragon lizard, Ctenophorus pictus

Callum McDiarmid, Christopher R. Friesen, Cissy Ballen, Mats Olsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Theory predicts trade-offs between pre- and post-copulatory sexually selected traits. This relationship may be mediated by the degree to which males are able to monopolize access to females, as this will place an upper limit on the strength of post-copulatory selection. Furthermore, traits that aid in mate monopolization may be costly to maintain and may limit investment in post-copulatory traits, such as sperm performance. Australian painted dragons are polymorphic for the presence or absence of a yellow gular patch (‘bibs’), which may aid them to monopolize access to females. Previous work has shown that there are physiological costs of carrying this bib (greater loss of body condition in the wild). Here, we show that male painted dragons use this bright yellow bib as both an inter- and intrasexual signal, and we assess whether this signal is traded off against sperm performance within the same individuals. We found no relationship between aspects of bib colour and sperm swimming velocity or percentage of motile sperm and suggest that the bib polymorphism may be maintained by complex interactions between physiological or life-history traits including other sperm or ejaculate traits and environmental influences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1303-1312
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • female choice
  • lizard
  • post-copulatory
  • precopulatory
  • sexual selection
  • sperm competition
  • trade-offs

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