Inter-Individual Differences in Ornamental Colouration in a Mediterranean Lizard in Relation to Altitude, Season, Sex, Age, and Body Traits
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ColourationSocial signalsPsammodromus algirusLizardsAltitudinal gradient
Moreno-Rueda, G.; Reguera, S.; Zamora-Camacho, F.J.; Comas, M. Inter-Individual Differences in Ornamental Colouration in a Mediterranean Lizard in Relation to Altitude, Season, Sex, Age, and Body Traits. Diversity 2021, 13, 158. https://doi.org/ 10.3390/d13040158
SponsorshipSpanish government (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación); European Union (project CGL2009-13185); Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (FPU programme) FJZC (AP2009-3505) and SR (AP2009- 1325)
Animals frequently show complex colour patterns involved in social communication, which attracts great interest in evolutionary and behavioural ecology. Most researchers interpret that each colour in animals with multiple patches may either signal a different bearer’s trait or redundantly convey the same information. Colour signals, moreover, may vary geographically and according to bearer qualities. In this study, we analyse different sources of colour variation in the eastern clade of the lizard Psammodromus algirus. Sexual dichromatism markedly differs between clades; both possess lateral blue eyespots, but whereas males in the western populations display strikingly colourful orange-red throats during the breeding season, eastern lizards only show some commissure pigmentation and light yellow throats. We analyse how different colour traits (commissure and throat colouration, and the number of blue eyespots) vary according to body size, head size (an indicator of fighting ability), and sex along an elevational gradient. Our findings show that blue eyespots function independently from colour patches in the commissure and throat, which were interrelated. Males had more eyespots and orange commissures (which were yellow or colourless in females). Throat colour saturation and the presence of coloured commissures increased in older lizards. The number of eyespots, presence of a coloured commissure, and throat colour saturation positively related to head size. However, while the number of eyespots was maximal at lowlands, throat colour saturation increased with altitude. Overall, our results suggest that this lizard harbours several colour signals, which altitudinally differ in their importance, but generally provide redundant information. The relevance of each signal may depend on the context. For example, all signals indicate head size, but commissure colouration may work well at a short distance and when the lizard opens the mouth, while both throat and eyespots might work better at long distance. Meanwhile, throat colouration and eyespots probably work better in different light conditions, which might explain the altitudinal variation in the relative importance of each colour component.