Diurnal colour change in a sexually dimorphic trait in the Andean lizard Anolis heterodermus (Squamata: Dactyloidae)

2019-02-19T10:58:20Z (GMT) by Iván Beltrán

Sexual dimorphism in body size, shape and colour is widespread in lizards as well as in other taxa. In the context of sexual selection, these sex differences are commonly manifested as exaggerated male traits, which are selected by females to assess the quality of males. However, differences in sex by environment interactions can also lead to sexual dimorphism. The genus of Anolis lizards is particularly well known for sharp sexual dimorphism in dewlap colour and size; however, this is not the case in all anole species. Using digital image analyses, I assessed the existence of sexual differences in the diurnal change in colour and size of a conspicuous patch on the tail of the lizard Anolis heterodermus Duméril 1851. Results showed that the tail patch of both males and females changed in colour, but not size, from red to blue throughout the day in a similar fashion. This process took almost half a day to complete and occurred in the absence of conspecifics, suggesting that the change itself may not have an active role in social communication. However, the colour patches of males were consistently larger. The cause of the substantial variation in colour and size of the tail patch of A. heterodermus is still unknown and deserves more research. This study highlights the importance of continuous wildlife observations to identify life history traits that may be important in animal behaviour but are challenging to observe in nature.