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Sexual Dimorphism of Head Size in Podarcis Hispanica Atrata: Testing the Dietary Divergence Hypothesis By Bite Force Analysis

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

Sexual dimorphism of relative head size is a widespread phenomenon in lizards, males having larger head/trunk ratios than females. In an attempt to explain this sexual dimorphism several hypotheses have been formulated. The two most frequently cited ones are: 1) sexual selection acting on those structures important in intrasexual competition and 2) natural selection for reduction of food competition between the sexes. In the insular subspecies of Podarcis hispanica (P h. atrata) males tend to have significantly larger heads than similarly sized females. We here test an implicit assumption of the dietary divergence hypothesis, namely that an increase in head size results in an increase in gape width and/or bite force, thereby allowing the larger headed sex to exploit larger prey classes. Using a static bite force model, we calculated the magnitude of bite forces for given directions at given positions on the jaws and for different head sizes. We experimentally determined the hardness of three different prey items and compared the data to the maximal bite force produced by both sexes. Our results suggest an important difference in male and female bite capacity, which may bear significant ecological relevance, and are in agreement with the implicit assumption of the dietary divergence theory.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Antwerp (UIA), Universiteitsplein 1, B-2670 Antwerp, Belgium


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