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Heterosexual Signalling By the Lizard Anolis Carolinensis, with Intersexual Comparisons Across Contexts

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We quantified the structure and use of signals exchanged by males and females within the female-defence polygyny of the lizard, Anolis carolinensis. During heterosexual interactions, both sexes performed three kinds of stereotypic headbob displays (A, B, and C) with equal precision. These three display types were essentially identical to A, B, and C display types previously documented for both sexes during consexual contests, and for males when displaying alone (non-directed context). Therefore, there is no courtship-specific headbob display in A. carolinensis. Although interacting males and females displayed at a similar mean frequency (~20 displays/h), signalling was sexually dimorphic in that: (1) males used predominately C displays (89%), whereas females used predominantly A and B displays (48% and 50%, respectively); (2) males extended their dewlaps with almost every display (98%), whereas females extended their dewlaps with few displays (<2%); (3) males sequenced 80% of displays in volleys of two or more displays, whereas females performed only 12% of displays in volleys; and (4) males concluded 22% of displays with shudderbobs (i.e. display modifier composed of shallow, quick, double bobs), whereas females never appended displays with shudderbobs. From field and laboratory data on A. carolinensis signal behaviour during other social contexts and the species' female-defence mating system, we interpret heterosexual signalling from a perspective of intrasexual selection to discuss the: (1) absence of a courtship-unique display, (2) physical structure of displays, (3) display repertoire size, and (4) likelihood of species and individual recognition. For advertising sexual identity, the antithetical use of display types and dewlap by the sexes was both redundant and equivocal. Dewlap size (seven fold smaller for an average sized female than an average sized male) is an honest signal for sexual identity, yet females avoid extending their dewlaps to males. Thus, we propose a female mimicry hypothesis for the pattern of heterosexual signalling. By signalling ambiguously, females permit female-sized adult males to mimic female displays, whereby females and small males derive an alternative mating option. Small males that signal deceptively to a larger territorial male could avoid eviction and practice kleptogamy with resident females.


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