The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

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pdf 06. The role of colour polymorphism in social encounters among female common lizards


Open Access

pp. 223-230
Authors: Vercken, Elodie & Clobert, Jean

Abstract: Colour variation in females is expected to play a role in intra-specific communication by signalling for traits that are socially relevant. However, in some cases, the information carried by colour signals is not sufficient and other cues may be used by conspecifics, such as chemosensory cues. In the common lizard, ventral coloration of females can be classified as yellow, orange or mixed. These ventral colours have been shown to predict the outcome of dyad encounters in an experimental context. However, there was no evidence that females really used the colour signal to assess the competitive ability and the social strategy of their opponent. In lacertids, chemical signals are often implicated in intraspecific communication, and could be used by females to acquire information useful for social interactions. We performed dyad encounters in which the ventral colour of the opponent was either visible or not, and studied the response of the focal female. We found that females used the colour of their opponent as a signal to adjust their own behaviour, but they also seem to be able to use other complementary cues, most probably behavioural cues. Females of different colours also differed in their ability to respond to a novel situation, which suggests colour-based differences in the plasticity of social behaviour.


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