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Behavioral and physiological polymorphism in males of the austral lizard Liolaemus sarmientoi


Integrative behavioral studies show that the interplay between individual physiology and social behavior influences the ecology of the species, ultimately affecting individual fitness. Particularly in lizards, color polymorphism is associated with differential behaviors and reproductive strategies, which are evident in mature males during the mating season. Dominant males generally have greater endurance, higher body temperature, and larger bodies than submissive males, so they can acquire and defend larger territories and have greater access to females for mating. We studied whether the color morphs observed in males of one of the world's southernmost reptiles, Liolaemus sarmientoi, are related to behavioral variation during agonistic interactions, thermal physiology, morphology, and/or locomotor stamina. Liolaemus sarmientoi males exhibit three color morphs: red (RR), red-yellow (RY), and yellow (YY). These lizards exhibit subtle behavioral displays and we did not observe stamina differences among morphs. However, we found that RR males are more aggressive than YY males during agonistic encounters. In addition, greater body temperature change during trials, higher field body temperatures, and greater head sizes of RR males compared to RY or YY indicate that RR is a dominant morph, which may influence their ability to acquire and defend territory and tactics for achieving reproductive success.

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