Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Anatomy determines how lizards attract partners and repel rivals

Date:
June 4, 2013
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
Catching the attention of females in a darkened rainforest amid a blur of windblown vegetation is no easy task. But male Anolis lizards on the island of Jamaica have evolved an ideal visual technique. A new study now solves the mystery of why their close relatives on the neighboring island of Puerto Rico do not adopt the same strategy.

A Puerto Rican anole extending its dewlap.
Credit: Terry Ord

Catching the attention of female lizards in a darkened rainforest amid a blur of windblown vegetation is no easy task.

Related Articles


But male Anolis lizards on the island of Jamaica have evolved an ideal visual technique -- very rapid extension and retraction of a large, coloured pouch under their throats, combined with quick bobbing of their heads to warn off any other rival suitors.

Now the mystery of why their close relatives on the neighbouring island of Puerto Rico do not adopt the same strategy to advertise their ownership of a territory has been solved.

The study, led by UNSW's Dr Terry Ord, is published in the journal Functional Ecology.

The research shows the Puerto Rican lizards lack the right physiology to be able to perform the rapid movement of the conspicuous pouch, or dewlap. They can still compete successfully, however, in the same way that being either a sprinter, or a long-distance runner, can have different advantages.

"Puerto Rican Anolis have evolved a range of alternative strategies for enhancing detection of their displays, such as tailoring the speed and duration of their displays to match conditions in the forest, and timing their display to avoid periods of high visual noise," said Dr Terry Ord, of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Dr Ord said his team was very surprised when they first discovered the Anolis lizards on Puerto Rica did not rapidly extend their dewlap, like their Jamaican cousins.

"We had previously used realistic-looking robot lizards in the forest to show that rapidly extending the dewlap, like a colourful flag, is a very effective territorial display amidst all the distractions of the rainforest."

For the latest study the researchers developed a mathematical model of the biomechanical properties of the lever mechanism that controls dewlap extension. They then dissected museum specimens of lizards to study their anatomy and compare this with their behaviour in the forest, as recorded on video.

"Lizards on Puerto Rica that do not rapidly extend their dewlaps have biomechanical constraints that restrict them from doing this at the right speed. Because of this, they extend the dewlap at considerably slower speeds and instead rely on other strategies to maintain an effective display," Dr Ord said.

"Research on the evolution of communication and sexual ornaments has rarely been carried out in this "bottom-up" way of seeing how the anatomy of a signal shapes the way that the signal is used in communication. But our study shows it has the potential to be critically important in truly understanding why animals behave -- and evolve -- the way they do."

There are more than 400 species of Anolis in the Caribbean and Americas, making them of particular interest to scientists studying how species evolve.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Terry J. Ord, David C. Collar, Thomas J. Sanger. The biomechanical basis of evolutionary change in a territorial display. Functional Ecology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12110

Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "Anatomy determines how lizards attract partners and repel rivals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130604114003.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2013, June 4). Anatomy determines how lizards attract partners and repel rivals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130604114003.htm
University of New South Wales. "Anatomy determines how lizards attract partners and repel rivals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130604114003.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins