In Space and Time: Territorial Animals are Attracted to Conspecific Chemical Cues

Stephanie M. Campos, Chloe Strauss, Emília P. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Territorial animals lay scent marks around their territories to broadcast their presence, but these olfactory signals can both attract and repel conspecifics. Attraction or aversion can have a profound impact in terms of space use and thereby influence an individual's access to resources and mates. Here, we test the impact of chemical signals on the long-term space use and activity of receivers, comparing the response of males and females, territory holders, and temporary visitors in Sceloporus undulatus lizards in the field. We placed either male femoral gland secretions (chemical) or blank (control) cues on resident male landmarks, repeatedly over 5 d, while monitoring the activity and location of all lizards in the vicinity. We found that resident males and females, but not non-resident males, were active on more days near landmarks treated with chemical cues than landmarks treated with control cues. Non-resident males remained closer to chemical than control cues. These results suggest that territorial scent marks are attractive to conspecifics and impact space use, but that the specific effects depend on receiver sex and residency status. Such subtle or gradual changes in behavior may frequently be overlooked by short-term choice experiments. Future studies investigating the behavioral significance of a communicative signal should consider these finer details of behavior for a more comprehensive assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-144
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Sceloporus
  • chemical signal
  • communication
  • resident
  • sex
  • space use
  • territory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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