acta ethologica

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 57–65 | Cite as

First experimental evidence that proteins from femoral glands convey identity-related information in a lizard

  • Marco MangiacottiEmail author
  • Sofia Gaggiani
  • Alan Jioele Coladonato
  • Stefano Scali
  • Marco Alberto Luca Zuffi
  • Roberto Sacchi
Original Paper


Transferring identity-related information (IRI) to conspecifics may give advantage in effectively tuning intraspecific behaviour. Some lizard species use the secretions of specialized epidermal glands (femoral or cloacal) to convey IRI. Those secretions are made of lipids and proteins, the former been suggested to inform about signaller quality, the latter suspected to communicate IRI to conspecifics. Here, we tested the hypothesis that proteins broadcast IRI by analysing the movement patterns of 28 male common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) under strictly controlled experimental conditions. Lizards were videotaped in plastic terraria where the substrate scent was manipulated by filling it with a solution bearing (i) the proteins extracted from the secretions of the tested lizard (SELF); (ii) the proteins from a never-met donor from other nearby populations (NON-SELF); and (iii) the solvent alone. Lizards showed higher behavioural response to the NON-SELF treatment with respect to both CTRL and SELF ones. Further, protein concentration did not affect behavioural response, suggesting an all-or-nothing effect. Both results agree with the hypothesis that proteins may be used in chemical communication and convey IRI, demonstrating for the first time that they can be used as intraspecific signal.


Unfamiliar recognition Chemical communication Lizards Femoral glands Proteins Lipids Identity signals Quality signals Residence in space and time analysis Movement pattern 



The study was performed in accordance with the European and Italian laws on animal use in scientific research (Aut. Prot. PNM-2015-0010423, PNM-2016-0002154). This research is part of the PhD project of MM, funded by the FRG_2016 (Ministry of Education, University and Research - MIUR) to Roberto Sacchi. We thank Marco Fumagalli, Riccardo Montagna, Stefano Pezzi, and Lorenzo Balestrazzi for their help in the lab work.


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Copyright information

© ISPA, CRL 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e dell’AmbienteUniversità degli Studi di PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Museo di Storia Naturale di MilanoMilanItaly
  3. 3.Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Università di PisaCalciItaly

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