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The effect of coloration and temperature on sprint performance in male and female wall lizards



Phenotypic coloration in animals is often expected to have a signalling function, but it may also evolve as a correlated trait that reflects life-history strategy, social strategy, or ecological divergence. Wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) exhibit substantial colour variation, with both males and females being red, white, yellow, or a mixture of these colours. However, the biological significance of these colour morphs remains unknown. Here we investigate the relationship between coloration and temperature-dependent locomotor performance in an attempt to identify the adaptive significance of colour variation in this species. We investigate the maximum sprint speed of males and females of each of these colour morphs across seven different temperatures, using general additive mixed models (GAMMs). We predicted that the different sexes and colour phenotypes would exhibit differences in sprint speed performance, potentially indicating a correlation between coloration and adaptation into different ecological niches. We found no difference in performance of the discrete colour morphs, but amongst individuals that exhibited red coloration, those with a greater percentage of red were slower than those with less red coloration. This suggests a trade-off between red coloration and high sprint performance in this species. Furthermore, larger animals performed better, independent of colour and sex. Finally, we found no relative or absolute difference between males and females in their sprint performance. Taken together, our results suggest that there is no sex-specific or colour morph-specific differentiation in the use of microhabitats in this species. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 107, 573–582.

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