Katleen Huyghe
Katleen Huyghe

University of Antwerp
Department of Biology
Functional Morphology lab
Universiteitsplein 1
2610 Antwerp - Belgium


During my PhD (2009), I focused on the relationships among secondary sexual traits and how they contribute to the reproductive success of lizards. When males compete with other males over resources (for example territories) and access to females, sexual selection acts on male traits such as morphology, physiological performance, immunity, and behaviour. I examined how and to what extent these male characters interact and contribute to male dominance (intrasexual competition) and female choice (intersexual competition). Androgens, such as testosterone and corticosterone may play important roles during sexual selection and affect secondary sexual traits, such as morphology (muscle mass) and behaviour (the willingness to perform).

The co-existence of males of different phenotypes (e.g. colour morphs) within one species (e.g. Podarcis melisellensis, see photo) suggests that there might be more than one solution to the challenges imposed by the social (sexual) environment. The success of a morph could be considered as the balanced result of its weaknesses and strengths, and morphs may represent alternative tactics, subjected to sexual selection. When polymorphisms are associated with differences in morphology, performance, and behaviour, and when this divergence in life-history traits is genetically influenced, assortative mating may result in reproductive isolation between the morphs. Genetic divergence therefore provides an excellent opportunity to study the early stages of adaptive diversification, and possibly eventually sympatric speciation driven by sexual conflict. In a population genetics study of the divergence of neutral microsatellite markers, I found signs of subtle genetic divergence between the alternate morphs, which show differences in external morphology, jaw muscle mass, bite performance, dominance, and immunity. I will continue looking at a variety of aspects related to the origin and maintenance of these morphs, including genetics, physiology, sexual selection, sperm competition and life-history trade-offs.

After graduating in 2009, I moved to Madrid to work as a postdoctoral researcher (with Patrick Fitze), at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales. Here, the polygynandrous common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) is the star of the show. I am interested in the reasons why some individuals (males and females) have a greater reproductive success than others. Moreover I would like to find out how environmental conditions affect these individuals and their success. Which colour, morphology, performance, behaviour, and hormonal traits determine success? How would their role in determining success change when environmental conditions are altered?

Since October 2010 I am back at the University of Antwerp to work on "Sexual selection as a diversifying factor in populations".


  • Huyghe, K., B. Vanhooydonck, H. Scheers, M. Molina-Borja and R. Van Damme (2005) Morphology, performance and fighting capacity in male lizards, Gallotia galloti. Funct. Ecol. 19: 800-807. full text (PDF)

  • Irschick D.J., A. Herrel, B. Vanhooydonck, K. Huyghe and R. Van Damme (2005) Locomotor compensation creates a mismatch between laboratory and field estimates of escape speed in lizards. Evolution 59: 1579-1587. full text (PDF)

  • Huyghe, K., A. Herrel, B. Vanhooydonck, J.J. Meyers and D.J. Irschick (2007) Microhabitat use, diet, and performance data on the Hispaniolan twig anole, Anolis sheplani. Zoology 110: 2-8. full text (PDF)

  • Huyghe, K., B. Vanhooydonck, A. Herrel, Z. Tadic and R. Van Damme (2007) Morphology, performance, behaviour and ecology of three colour morphs in males of the lizard Podarcis melisellensis. Integr. Comp. Biol. 47: 211-220. full text (PDF)

  • Herrel, A., K. Huyghe, B. Vanhooydonck, T. Backeljau, K. Breugelmans, I. Grbac, R. Van Damme and D.J. Irschick (2008) Rapid large scale evolutionary divergence in morphology and performance associated with exploitation of a different dietary resource. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105: 4792-4795. full text (PDF)

  • Brecko, J., K. Huyghe, B. Vanhooydonck, A. Herrel, I. Grbac and R. Van Damme (2008) Functional and ecological relevance of intraspecific variation in body size and shape in a lizard, Podarcis melisellensis. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 94: 251-264. full text (PDF)

  • Huyghe, K., A. Herrel, D. Adriaens, Z. Tadic and R. Van Damme (2009) It is all in the head. Morphological basis for differences in bite force among colour morphs of the Dalmatian wall lizard. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 96: 13-22. full text (PDF)

  • Huyghe, K., K. Breugelmans, M. Small, Z. Tadic, R. Van Damme, B. Vanhooydonck and T. Backeljau (2009) Characterization of polymorphic microsatellite markers in the Dalmatian wall lizard Podarcis melisellensis (Squamata: Lacertidae). Molec. Ecol. Resources 9: 299-301. full text (PDF)

  • Huyghe, K., J.F. Husak, A. Herrel, Z. Tadic, I.T. Moore, R. Van Damme and B. Vanhooydonck (2009) Relationships between hormones, physiological performance and immunocompetence in a color-polymorphic lizard species, Podarcis melisellensis. Horm. Behav. 55:488-494. full text (PDF)

  • Huyghe, K., J.F. Husak, I.T. Moore, B. Vanhooydonck, R. Van Damme, M. Molina-Borja and A. Herrel (2010) Effects of testosterone on mophology, performance and muscle mass in a lizard. J. Exp. Zool. A 313A: 9-16. full text (PDF)

  • Huyghe, K., M. Small, B. Vanhooydonck, A. Herrel, Z. Tadic, R. Van Damme and T. Backeljau (2010) Genetic divergence among sympatric colour morphs of the Dalmatian wall lizard (Podarcis melisellensis). Genetica 138: 387-393. full text (PDF)

  • Huyghe, K., A. Van Oystaeyen, F. Pasmans, Z. Tadic, B. Vanhooydonck and R. Van Damme (2010) Seasonal changes in parasite load and a cellular immune response in a colour polymorphic lizard. Oecologia 163: 867-874. full text (PDF)

  • Van Gossum, H., Bots, J., Van Heusden, J., Hammers, M., Huyghe, K. and N.I. Morehouse (2011) Reflectance spectra and mating patterns support intraspecific mimicry in the colour polymorphic damselfly Ischnura elegans. Evol. Ecol. 25: 139-154. full text (PDF)

  • Herrel, A., Huyghe, K., Okovic, P., Lisicic, D. and Tadic, Z. (2011) Fast and furious: effects of body size on strike performance in an arboreal viper Trimeresurus (Cryptelytrops) albolabris. J. Exp. Zool. A. 315: 22-29. full text (PDF)

  • Huyghe, K., B. Vanhooydonck, A. Herrel, Z. Tadic and R. Van Damme (2012) Female lizards ignore the sweet scent of success: male characteristics implicated in female mate preference. Zoology 115: 217-222. full text (PDF)

  • Lailvaux, S.P., K. Huyghe and R. Van Damme (2012) Why can't we all just get along? Interspecific aggression in resident and non-resident Podarcis melisellensis lizards. J. Zool. 288: 207-2013. full text (PDF)

  • K. Huyghe, L.M. San-Jose, M. Peñalver Alcázar and P.S. Fitze (in press) An ecomorphological analysis of the determinants of mating success. Biol. J. Linn. Soc.