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Full Access Is body shape of mangrove-dwelling monitor lizards (Varanus indicus; Varanidae) sexually dimorphic?

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Is body shape of mangrove-dwelling monitor lizards (Varanus indicus; Varanidae) sexually dimorphic?

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In monitor lizards, males are typically larger than conspecific females, but body shape is usually quite similar in both sexes. This not only represents a puzzle worthy of evolutionary explanation, but also makes field sex determination of monitor lizards difficult. We asked whether subtle differences in body shape follow the same pattern as in other sexually dimorphic lizard taxa and thus can be explained by the same selective forces. We tested the hypotheses that (1) females have a longer abdomen due to fecundity selection and (2) males possess bigger heads due to intrasexual selection. We also hypothesised that (3) male monitors show a wider chests and longer upper fore-limbs to win male-male wrestling matches. We monitored ontogeny in 35 mangrove-dwelling monitors (Varanus indicus). Seventeen body measurements were taken every three months up to the age of 24-34 months. Sex was determined by an ultrasonographic imaging. We employed multiple approaches to remove the effect of size and used both confirmation and exploratory statistics. The results revealed that sexual differences in body shape were small and emerged after maturity. Females have a relatively longer abdomen while males wider chest and longer upper fore-limbs. Thus, the differences in body shape between male and female varanid lizards may be attributed to both fecundity and sexual selection.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Viničcná 7, CZ-12844 Prague 2, Czech Republic; 2: Prague ZOO, U Trojského Zámku 3, CZ-171 00 Prague 7, Czech Republic; 3: Animal Clinic – Bílá hora, Čistovická 44/413, CZ-163 00 Prague 6, Czech Republic


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