Lots of animals can colors during the mating season. Birds, fish, non-human primates, reptiles, you when you blush from seeing that special someone (just kidding about that last one!)… It’s not quite the same as blushing, but for some animals, the intensity and timing of their coloration is controlled by a hormone called testosterone. Male broad headed skinks (E. Inexpectatus) tout a bright orange head during the summer breeding season that was shown to be controlled by testosterone. In fact, giving testosterone to male skinks made them turn even brighter orange that continued after the breeding season was over! While bright orange heads attract more mates, it can put the skinks dangerous situations, making them more visible to predators and other competing males. So next time you go to pick out a bright orange shirt, think of our friends the broad headed skinks.
Sketch and fact contributed by Allen Pryor
Source: Cooper, W., Mendonca, M., & Vitt, L. (1987). Induction of Orange Head Coloration and Activation of Courtship and Aggression by Testosterone in the Male Broad-Headed Skink (Eumeces laticeps). Journal of Herpetology, 21(2), 96. doi: 10.2307/1564469