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Can scent-mediated female mate preference explain an abrupt mtDNA cline in Lacerta schreiberi?

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Divergence in female mate preferences can strongly influence the structure and dynamics of hybrid zones. We examined the potential role of female mate preferences in maintaining an abrupt west-east mtDNA cline between two deeply divergent genetic lineages of Lacerta schreiberi, a lizard endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. The lineages are largely morphologically cryptic but with respect to the mtDNA cline, western males tend to be less parasitized, in better body condition and more intensely coloured than eastern males, a pattern that cannot be explained by environmental variation alone. The lineages may also differ in unmeasured aspects such as physiology, behaviour and olfactory signals, which may influence mate choice. As female mate attraction has been found to vary with olfactory cues in lacertid lizards, we experimentally tested whether females were differentially attracted to femoral pore secretions of males from the two genetic backgrounds. Females did not prefer scents of 'higher quality' western males, nor did they prefer the scents of males belonging to their own genetic background. This suggests the abrupt mtDNA cline is unlikely to be explained by assortative mating of matrilineages that distinguish male genetic background based on scent.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia;, Email:; 2: CIBIO – Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos da Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal; 3: Department of Biology, Univeristy of York, P.O. Box 373, York YO10 5YW, UK; 4: Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerp, Belgium; 5: School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Sciences Department, Museum Victoria, P.O. Box 666, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia; 6: CEBB, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia; 7: INRA, CBGP, Campus international de Baillarguet, CS 30016, F-34988 Montferrier-sur-Lez cedex, France, CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Campus Agrário de Vairão, Vairão, Portugal


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