Colour variation in female common lizards: why we should speak of morphs, a reply to Cote et al.
Article first published online: 24 APR 2008
© 2008 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2008 European Society For Evolutionary Biology
Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume 21, Issue 4, pages 1160–1164, July 2008
How to Cite
VERCKEN, E., SINERVO, B. and CLOBERT, J. (2008), Colour variation in female common lizards: why we should speak of morphs, a reply to Cote et al. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 21: 1160–1164. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2008.01535.x
- Issue published online: 24 APR 2008
- Article first published online: 24 APR 2008
- Received 12 March 2008; accepted 12 March 2008
- alternative strategies;
- colour variation;
- common lizard;
- genotype–environment interactions;
Female common lizards display variation in their ventral colour, ranging from pale yellow to bright orange. In a previous study, we proposed a discrete classification of this variation into three colour classes: yellow, orange and mixed. However, a recent study reported on continuity of reflectance spectra and plastic change in spectrum components in female common lizards, which made the authors question the validity of a discrete classification of colour patterns in this species. Here, we discuss the relevance of discrete, eye-based colour classification for understanding the ecological processes that shape the social structure of common lizard female populations. First, as the mixed colour class is characterized by heterogeneous distribution of colour, we explain that it cannot be reliably described by localized spectrophotometer measurements. On the contrary, the classification of colour into three discrete classes is consistent with the description of three alternative strategies in female common lizards. Then, although we support the ecological importance of colour plasticity in this species, we refute the hypothesis of a condition-dependent signal, which is not supported by experimental data. At last, we explain that colour plasticity, and in particular hormone-mediated plasticity is compatible with genetic inheritance of colour and the evolution of alternative strategies. Indeed, the genetic background and the environment, especially the social environment, are expected to interact adaptively to modulate the expression of colour signals and alternative strategies.