Pteridine, not carotenoid, pigments underlie the female-specific orange ornament of striped plateau lizards (Sceloporus virgatus)
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B
Indicator models of sexual selection suggest that signal honesty is maintained via costs of ornament expression. Carotenoid-based visual signals are a well-studied example, as carotenoids may be environmentally limited and impact signaler health. However, not all bright yellow, orange and red ornaments found in vertebrates are carotenoid-based; pteridine pigments may also produce these colors. We examine the contribution of carotenoid and pteridine pigments to the orange reproductive color of female striped plateau lizards (Sceloporus virgatus). This color ornament reliably indicates female mate quality, yet costs maintaining signal honesty are currently unknown. Dietary carotenoid manipulations did not affect orange color, and orange skin differed from surrounding white skin in drosopterin, not carotenoid, content. Further, orange color positively correlated with drosopterin, not carotenoid, concentration. Drosopterin-based female ornaments avoid the direct trade-offs of using carotenoids for ornament production vs egg production, thus may relax counter-selection against color ornament exaggeration in females. Direct experimentation is needed to determine the actual costs of pteridine-based ornaments. Like carotenoids, pteridines influence important biological processes, including immune and antioxidant function; predation and social costs may also be relevant.
Weiss S. L., K. Foerster, and J. Hudon. 2012. Pteridine, not carotenoid, pigments underlie the female-specific orange ornament of striped plateau lizards (Sceloporus virgatus). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B 161:117-123.