The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action

“Bearded Ladies” Aren’t Just at the Circus Anymore


Lindsey Swierk, Langkilde Lab researcher extraordinaire, recently published a paper summarizing her work with sex-linked coloration in eastern fence lizards and how it affects mate choice. This paper in the journal Biology Letters, shows that, while males typically have blue badges underneath the chin and sides and females are generally white underneath, some females, the “bearded ladies,” show light blue patches underneath their chins and sides. These females look more like males, and when males were given a choice of courting either a female with stereotypical white coloration underneath or a “bearded lady,” they favored courting the females without male-like coloration.

 A male (left) and female (right) fence lizard. The female has pale blue badges.

A male (left) and female (right) fence lizard. The female is a “bearded lady” with pale blue badges.

Lindsey also found that these masculinized females had eggs which weighed less and hatched later than those of the favored females, indicating that “bearded ladies” have lower fitness. The Langkilde Lab is continuing to look into why females may display these traits if they result in lower fitness, and we are investigating the link between testosterone levels and female coloration and whether the offspring of these “bearded ladies” have any advantages or disadvantages. Stay tuned for future results, but in the meantime, check out some of the publicity that Lindsey’s latest has garnered (below) along with all of the creative headlines that the national news media cooked up for this story!

National Geographic
Male lizards less attracted to “bearded ladies”

LA Times
Male lizards tend to steer clear of bearded lady lizards

Scientific American
Colourful lizards reveal the pros and cons of being a hideous “bearded lady”
Lizard females that look like males are less attractive (to male lizards)

The Guardian Express
Eastern fence lizards lust less blue companions

Christian Science Monitor
Female lizards with beards not attractive, report other lizards

Feeling blue: Gender-bending lady lizards miss out on love

The Scientist
Males court bearded ladies less

Science News
“Bearded ladies” are less sexy to male lizards

See the full paper in Biology Letters here!


5 thoughts on ““Bearded Ladies” Aren’t Just at the Circus Anymore

  1. I use to keep geckos and I read in their case that it was dependent upon incubation temperature and they referred to higher temperature females as stronger, more male like pheno qualities which to a breeder would definitely appear that way. A female with greater size and or color would be more valuable. There are groups of the lighter fence lizards near to wear I live and I have seen females with more than average amounts of blue, but thought that it was probably an instance of the higher end of the lower incubation temperatures that produce more female heavy clutches. There are also groups further east of here that are much darker in coloration. Thank you

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