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Aggression, and the Acquisition and Function of Social Dominance in Female Anolis Carolinensis

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Female green anoles, Anolis carolinensis, were paired in terraria to investigate behavioral components of social interaction. Resources (perching sites, prey, and males as potential mates) were limited to assess their importance to cohabiting females. During interaction, paired females exhibited aggressive social behavior which contributed to the development of dominant-subordinate relationships. Dominant status and its relationship to differential resource acquisition was defined primarily by frequency of displacement of another female. Along with displacement, dominant females also had increased frequency of assertion displays, challenge displays, attacks and biting (Figs 1 & 2). Subordinate females were displaced more often and assumed submissive postures. No differences were found between dominant and subordinate females for perch site selection, body color or in prey capturing latency or success (Figs 3 & 4). Perch site elevation was not different between dominant and subordinate females, but was significantly lower than males. The color of paired females was not different unless males were present, in which case dominant females were darker. Paired females also respond differently to courtship display (Fig. 5). Dominant females responded with displays significantly more often than subordinate females to male courtship, indicating receptivity. The role of dominant-subordinate relationships among female A. carolinensis may include courtship and reproductive success as an important component, with consequences for the outcome of aggressive and reproductive social interactions with males.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD 57069, USA


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