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Conspicuous male coloration impairs survival against avian predators in Aegean wall lizards, Podarcis erhardii.

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Marshall, Kate LA 
Philpot, Kate E 
Stevens, Martin 


Animal coloration is strikingly diverse in nature. Within-species color variation can arise through local adaptation for camouflage, sexual dimorphism and conspicuous sexual signals, which often have conflicting effects on survival. Here, we tested whether color variation between two island populations of Aegean wall lizards (Podarcis erhardii) is due to sexual dimorphism and differential survival of individuals varying in appearance. On both islands, we measured attack rates by wild avian predators on clay models matching the coloration of real male and female P. erhardii from each island population, modeled to avian predator vision. Avian predator attack rates differed among model treatments, although only on one island. Male-colored models, which were more conspicuous against their experimental backgrounds to avian predators, were accordingly detected and attacked more frequently by birds than less conspicuous female-colored models. This suggests that female coloration has evolved primarily under selection for camouflage, whereas sexually competing males exhibit costly conspicuous coloration. Unexpectedly, there was no difference in avian attack frequency between local and non-local model types. This may have arisen if the models did not resemble lizard coloration with sufficient precision, or if real lizards behaviorally choose backgrounds that improve camouflage. Overall, these results show that sexually dimorphic coloration can affect the risk of predator attacks, indicating that color variation within a species can be caused by interactions between natural and sexual selection. However, more work is needed to determine how these findings depend on the island environment that each population inhabits.


This is the final version of the article. It first appeared from Wiley via


Camouflage, predator avoidance, receiver vision, sexual communication, survival, trade‐offs

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Ecol Evol

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This work was supported by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council studentship, Magdalene College, Cambridge and the British Herpetological Society (K.L.A.M), and a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and David Philips Research Fellowship (grant number BB/G022887/1) to M.S.