The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

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pdf 03. Spots of adult male red-spotted newts are redder and brighter than in females: evidence for a role in mate selection?


Open Access

pp. 83-89
Authors: Davis, Andrew K. & Grayson, Kristine L.

Abstract: As aquatic adults, eastern red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus v. viridescens) are generally green with two rows of dorsal spots, which vary in number between individuals and range in colour from orange to red. The function of these spots is unknown, but it is possible that they serve as sexual ornamentations and we examined this hypothesis by testing for sexual dimorphism in spot characteristics. We used an image analysis approach that has been used previously with this and other amphibian species to compare the number, size and colour – redness (hue score) and brightness – of spots in 100 male and 100 female aquatic adult newts captured during the breeding season in Virginia. While we found no apparent sex-related differences in the numbers of spots, and only a minor difference in spot sizes, we discovered that adult male red-spotted newts had significantly redder and more brightly coloured dorsal spots than did females. We also found that spot brightness is positively associated with body size. As male red-spotted newts entice females to mate in part with a highly visual display (the #hula##dance#), the sexual dimorphism in spot colour we found could be associated with this display. Our results, taken together with current knowledge on the carotenoid pigments behind the red spot colour, suggest a role for spot coloration in the mating system of N. v. viridescens that should be examined further and considered in other studies of mate choice. In a more general sense, this discovery also leads us to question if this phenomenon is present in other amphibian species previously thought to be #monomorphic#


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