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Communication in one sensory modality can influence communication in others. Lizards in many phrynosomatid species use primarily visual but also chemical signals. The striped plateau lizard, Sceloporus virgatus, exhibits evolutionary loss of a male color signal that in many species is used during aggressive postural displays towards conspecific males. These patches are used similarly in Urosaurus, the sister genus to Sceloporus. We compared a species in which a color signal has been lost, S. virgatus, to a species retaining the ancestral character state of blue abdominal display patches, Urosaurus ornatus, the common tree lizard, to test two hypotheses: (i) conspicuous postural displays that reveal the abdominal patch location are used less in the species that has lost the color patches; and (ii) potential chemical signals are used more in the species with the color loss. We analyzed both visual display behavior (push-up, full-show) and chemosensory behavior (tongue flick and nose tap) of male lizards following their introduction to a resident conspecific male in his home terrarium. Resident males performed very low rates of all behaviors, but intruders exhibited sufficient behavior for analysis.

Supporting the first hypothesis, S. virgatus were less likely than U. ornatus to perform full-show, a display that reveals abdominal skin. Male S. virgatus were more likely to perform push-up than U. ornatus, although S. virgatus performed push-up infrequently. Push-up is a postural display that does not specifically reveal the abdominal patch location. Supporting the second hypothesis, S. virgatus were more likely to perform chemosensory behaviors and performed them at a greater rate than did U. ornatus. Work comparing more closely related species is warranted to determine whether a negative association between conspicuous visual displays and chemosensory behavior is a general pattern.