Ontogenetic and individual variation in size, shape and speed in the Australian agamid lizard Amphibolurus nuchalis



The present study investigates relationships among size, shape and speed in the Australian agamid lizard Amphibolurus nuchalis. Maximal running speed, body mass, snout-vent length, tail length, fore- and hind limb spans and thigh muscle mass were measured in 68 field-fresh individuals spanning the entire ontogenetic size range (1.3 48 g). Relative lengths of both foreand hind limbs decrease with increasing body mass (= negative allometry), whereas relative tail length and thigh muscle mass increase with body mass (= positive allometry). Repeatable and significant differences in maximal running speed exist among individuals. Maximal running speed scales as (body mass)0.161, and 59% of the variation in maximal speed was related to body mass. Based on the results of the present and previous studies, data on scaling of body proportions alone appear inadequate to infer scaling relationships of functional characters such as top speed.

Surprisingly, individual variation in maximal speed is not related to individual variation in shape (relative limb, tail and body lengths). These components of overall shape are not independent; individuals tended to have either relatively long or relatively short limbs, tails and bodies for their body mass. Even the significant difference in multivariate shape between adult males and females has no measurable consequences for maximal speed. Speeds of field-fresh animals did not vary on a seasonal basis, and eight weeks of captivity had no effect on maximal running speeds. Gravid females and long-term (obese) captive lizards were both approximately 12% slower than field-fresh lizards.