By Karl Leif Bates
If your preferred method of attracting a mate is to bob your head vigorously and flash your chin-fan, you’d better tone it down a notch when there are predators around, lest you become lunch and not Dad.
That’s the take-away advice generated by biology assistant professor Manuel Leal and graduate student David Steinberg in a new paper appearing the week of May 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Visit their lab.)
On nine tiny islands in the Snake Creek region of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, the biologists videotaped and observed the social mating behavior of head-bobbing, fan-waving Anole sagrei studs. Five of the islands also harbored the anoles’ predator, the curly-tailed lizard Leiocephalus carinatus, who is a bit bigger and mostly stays on the ground.
When the predators were present, the anoles chose to do their displays twice as high off the ground and they reduced the amplitude of their head bobs by as much as 60 percent.
The anoles spent just as much time displaying when the predators were around, but doing so a little less flamboyantly may mean the females have to be closer to catch the signal, Leal said. And that, in turn, may affect mating success and how the anole males set up their territories.
CITATION: “Predation-associated modulation of movement-based signals by a Bahamian lizard,” David S. Steinberg, Jonathan B. Losos, Thomas W. Schoener, David A. Spiller, Jason J. Kolbe and Manuel Leal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, week of May 19, 2014. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1407190111