Effect of stress on female-specific ornamentation
Journal of Experimental Biology
Signal honesty is theorized to be maintained by condition-dependent trait expression. However, the mechanisms mediating the condition-dependence of sexually selected traits are often unknown. New work suggests that elevated glucocorticoid levels during physiological stress may play a role in maintaining signal honesty. Here, we experimentally examine the effect of both chronic and acute stress on the expression of the condition-dependent ornamentation of female striped plateau lizards, Sceloporus virgatus. Females were stressed either chronically via corticosterone implants or relatively acutely via autotomy, were sham manipulated or were left unmanipulated. Both stressors resulted in elevations in corticosterone within physiologically relevant levels, though the implants resulted in significantly higher levels than did autotomy. Corticosterone-implanted females were less likely to produce a clutch of eggs, but those individuals that did reproduce had similar reproductive output to females from other treatment groups. Compared to females in other groups, the corticosterone-implanted females tended to develop smaller ornaments that had less UV and orange-to-red wavelength reflectance relative to medium wavelength reflectance. The sex steroid hormones testosterone and estradiol were correlated to corticosterone levels, but did not appear to underlie the effect on ornament expression; of the steroids measured, only corticosterone levels were negatively related to ornament size and coloration. Thus, the condition-dependent ornamentation of female lizards is sensitive to chronic elevations in stress hormones, supporting their importance in the maintenance of signal honesty.
Weiss, SL, EE Mulligan, DS Wilson, and D Kabelik. "Effect of Stress on Female-Specific Ornamentation." The Journal of Experimental Biology. 216 (2013): 2641-7.