Adaptive social and maternal induction of antipredator dorsal patterns in a lizard with alternative social strategies

Lesley T Lancaster, Andrew G McAdam, John C Wingfield, Barry R Sinervo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Maternal effects facilitate adaptation to changing environments because they alter individual offspring traits to match current conditions. We show that maternal effects can also resolve context-dependent, correlational selection on multiple offspring traits, promoting adaptation to more complex environments. In side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana), two alternative pathways of dorsal pattern induction involve maternal oestradiol and alleles for throat colouration ( approximately social strategy). In one pathway, females increased yolk oestradiol when mated to yellow-throated sires; oestradiol induced dorsal barring in yellow-throated progeny of both sexes. In another pathway, females elevated yolk oestradiol in response to a high frequency of orange alleles in experimental social neighbourhoods. When the sire lacked yellow alleles, this secondary pathway resulted in striped, orange sons and striped, non-orange daughters. All maternally induced types had high fitness in the wild. These results illustrate a (previously undescribed) mechanism for females to simultaneously resolve differing correlational selection pressures on different progeny.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)798-808
Number of pages11
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number9
Early online dateJun 2007
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


  • Animals
  • Breeding
  • Ecosystem
  • Egg Yolk
  • Estradiol
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Lizards
  • Male
  • Oviparity
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sex Factors
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Social Behavior


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