South Africa-Australia: Young lizard ‘transvestites’ – Writer: Karen MacGregor

Young male Augrabies Flat Lizards in northern South Africa mimic females by delaying the onset of bright colouring, scientists in South Africa and Australia have found. By pretending to be female these ‘transvestites’ not only avoid being attacked by aggressive older male rivals but are also able to court females that share a territorial male’s area.

In an article in Proceedings of The Royal Society, titled “Flat Lizard Female Mimics Use Sexual Deception in Visual but not Chemical Signals”, Martin J Whiting of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Jonathan K Webb of the University of Sydney and J Scott Keogh of the Australian National University point out that understanding what “constrains and maintains signal honesty is a central theme in animal communication”.