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Abstract

Animal color patterns are a compromise between sexual selection pressures that increase advantages accrued from conspicuousness, and natural selection pressures that decrease those advantages through reduced survivorship. Predation pressure, as a mode of natural selection, often is invoked as a counter-selective force to sexual selection, yet few studies have demonstrated empirically that more conspicuous individuals experience higher rates of predation. We quantified predator attacks on models of collared lizards, Crotaphytus collaris, in three well-studied populations (Oklahoma, USA). These populations differ in coloration and in visual backgrounds against which the lizards are viewed by conspecifics and predators. Attack frequencies varied considerably among study sites but at all sites the models exhibiting the strongest color contrast with local rocks were detected and attacked most often. By comparison, inconspicuous models of females were never attacked at any of the sites. These results suggest a survival cost of conspicuous coloration in collared lizards, and reiterate the importance of considering the visual environment as well as differences among populations when examining the influence of predation on the evolution of animal color patterns.