Chemoreception and mating behaviour of a tropical Australian skink

Scott, Mitchell L., Llewelyn, John, Higgie, Megan, Hoskin, Conrad J., Pike, Kyana, and Phillips, Ben L. (2015) Chemoreception and mating behaviour of a tropical Australian skink. Acta Ethologica, 18 (3). pp. 283-293.

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In many reptile groups, molecular systematics is currently revealing high levels of cryptic diversity (i.e. genetically distinct lineages that are difficult to distinguish morphologically). One obvious mode for mate discrimination in these cryptic species is chemoreception. We hypothesise that diversity in these groups is not cryptic for pheromones, and mate recognition via chemoreception may be the primary reproductive isolating mechanism. Here, we present a preliminary study of chemoreception in Lampropholis coggeri, a rainforest skink of north-eastern Australia. We first describe the mating behaviour of captive pairs, showing that tongue-flicking is an important component for both males and females, and find that L. coggeri mate more readily when paired with a conspecific from their own population vs. from a nearby population. Based on the assumption that tongue-flicking represents the lizard’s interest, we then experimentally tested scent discrimination using lizard-swabbed cotton buds presented to captive individuals. We found both sexes tongue-flicked more to conspecific scent than to unscented controls. Males tongue-flicked more to female scent than to male scent but did not discriminate between mated and unmated females. While females showed greater interest in conspecific scent, they showed no greater interest in scent from males than females. This lack of discrimination was true for both mated and unmated females. Unexpectedly, however, mated females tongue-flicked substantially more than unmated females. Finally, males tended to tongue flick more often to female scents from their own population than to a nearby population that is moderately genetically divergent. Our results suggest that chemoreception plays a role in mate recognition in this species. Further work should extend to establishing mate recognition between the highly divergent cryptic lineages within this species and the pheromones underlying mate recognition.

Item ID: 37576
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1437-9546
Keywords: chemoreception, mate recognition, cryptic species, mate choice, conspecific, tongue flick, scent, pheromones, mating behaviour
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS), Tropical Landscapes Joint Venture
Projects and Grants: ARC DE130100218, ARC DP1094646, ARC DP130100318
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2015 22:51
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060311 Speciation and Extinction @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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