Discrimination of chemical stimuli in conspecific fecal pellets by a visually adept iguanid lizard, Crotaphytus collaris

TitleDiscrimination of chemical stimuli in conspecific fecal pellets by a visually adept iguanid lizard, Crotaphytus collaris
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsWilgers, DJ, Horne, EA
JournalJournal of Ethology
Pagination157 -163
Accession NumberKNZ001247
KeywordsChemoreception, Gular pump, Olfaction, Tongue-flick, Vomerolfaction

Iguanid lizards are known for visual acuity and a diminished vomeronasal organ, which has led to mixed conclusions on whether iguanids use chemical cues. The collared lizard, Crotaphytus collaris, is a territorial iguanid that lives in open rocky habitats. Fecal pellets placed prominently on open rocky perches may provide an ideal mechanism for intraspecific chemical signaling. In order to determine whether collared lizards can discriminate between chemical stimuli found in conspecific fecal pellets, we collected 24 males and 25 females to analyze sex-specific behavioral responses via tongue-flicks and a newly observed behavior for the species, gular pumps, to cotton swabs containing water, cologne, chemical stimuli from conspecific male and female fecal pellets, and the lizard’s own fecal pellet. Both sexes were able to discriminate chemical stimuli from water via at least one behavior. Male collared lizards exhibited greater rates of response (tongue-flick and gular pumps) toward male fecal pellets when compared to the negative water control. Our results also suggest individuals may be able to discriminate between fecal pellets, as indicated by generally greater (but non-significant) counts of male tongue-flick responses to male fecal pellets when compared to their own. Collared lizard chemical discrimination appears to utilize tongue-flick and gular pump behaviors, possibly associated with distinct chemosensory modes (vomerolfaction and olfaction). Based on this study, we suggest that chemical signals may play a greater role in intraspecific communication than previously thought in this highly visual lizard.