Influence of Age and Prior Experience on Territorial Behavior and the Costs of Defense in Male Collared Lizards


Troy A. Baird, University of Central Oklahoma, 100 N. University Drive, Edmond, OK 73034, USA. E-mail:


In polygynous species where males maintain strong interseasonal philopatry to the same breeding territories, older individuals have prior experience defending their areas, whereas younger individuals are defending a territory for the first time. Theoretical and empirical studies predict that under such conditions the cumulative costs of defense may be lower for older experienced males as a consequence of familiarity with environmental and/or social conditions in their particular local habitats. We used quantitative data from focal observational studies and introduction experiments to test the hypothesis that older collared lizard males (Crotaphytus collaris) with prior territorial experience (3 yr+ males) acquire larger territories allowing them to court more, different females, with greater frequency without incurring higher defense costs. Consistent with this hypothesis, 3 yr+ males controlled significantly larger territories and courted more females, without having significantly higher rates of territory patrol, frequencies of advertisement display, or aggressive interactions with same-sex competitors. Moreover, the intensity of responses to size- and age/experience-matched tethered intruders by 3 yr+ males was lower than that by 2 yr males in their first season of territory defense. Our results support the hypothesis that age/prior occupancy of territories lowers defense costs allowing males to defend larger areas and increase opportunities to court females, perhaps increasing mating opportunities. By contrast, 2 yr males may need to respond more aggressively to intruders because their ownership of territories is tenuous as a consequence of shorter territory occupancy.