Living on Earth’s Maggie Villiger reports on a lizard species whose promiscuous females hold all the power in the mating game.
CURWOOD: Just ahead, an experiment in local control of federal lands. First, this page from the Animal Notebook with Maggie Villiger.
VILLIGER: Out on the dating scene, some guys have all the luck. In the lizard world, the largest and most attractive males usually take over the best territory by brushing off their smaller competitors. The most desirable turf has lots of rocks for warming up in the sun and shaded nooks and crannies for cooling down.
Researchers decided to spice up mating season for a territorial group of lizards in California. They moved the best rocks from the large males’ turf to smaller males’ territory areas, so now the smallest males had the swingingest bachelor pads. And the females responded. The ladies moved to set up housekeeping with the smaller guys.
It looked like good territory was the deciding factor for females looking for love, but then researchers did paternity tests on the females’ offspring. It turns out the females were sneaking off to mate with larger males, too.
One clutch of lizards can have multiple fathers, since the mother can mate several times and then later on select whose sperm will actually fertilize her eggs. Having two mates gives the female’s offspring the best of both genetic worlds: larger dads produce the best sons while smaller dads produce the best daughters. So, female lizards don’t waste their time looking for that one perfect guy. Playing the field is an advantage for them and their offspring.
That’s this week’s Animal Note. I’m Maggie Villiger.
CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.
[MUSIC: Chris Whitely, “Living with the Law” LIVING WITH THE LAW (Columbia, 1991)]
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth