Expression of nuptial color is usually energetically costly, and is therefore regarded as an ‘honest signal’ to reflect mate quality. In order to choose a mate with high quality, both sexes may benefit from the ability to precisely evaluate their mates through optimizing visual systems which is in turn partially regulated by opsin gene modification. However, how terrestrial vertebrates regulate their color vision sensitivity is poorly studied. The green-spotted grass lizard Takydromus viridipunctatus is a sexually dimorphic lizard in which males exhibit prominent green lateral colors in the breeding season. In order to clarify relationships among male coloration, female preference, and chromatic visual sensitivity, we conducted testosterone manipulation with mate choice experiments, and evaluated the change of opsin gene expression from different testosterone treatments and different seasons. The results indicated that males with testosterone supplementation showed a significant increase in nuptial color coverage, and were preferred by females in mate choice experiments. By using quantitative PCR (qPCR), we also found that higher levels of testosterone may lead to an increase in rhodopsin-like 2 (rh2) and a decrease in long-wavelength sensitive (lws) gene expression in males, a pattern which was also observed in wild males undergoing maturation as they approached the breeding season. In contrast, females showed the opposite pattern, with increased lws and decreased rh2 expression in the breeding season. We suggest this alteration may facilitate the ability of male lizards to more effectively evaluate color cues, and also may provide females with the ability to more effectively evaluate the brightness of potential mates. Our findings suggest that both sexes of this chromatically dimorphic lizard regulate their opsin expression seasonally, which might play an important role in the evolution of nuptial coloration.
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