Performance capacity, fighting tactics and the evolution of life-stage male morphs in the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis)

Proc Biol Sci. 2004 Dec 7;271(1556):2501-8. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2004.2891.


The evolution of alternative male phenotypes is probably driven by male-male competition for access to reproductive females, but few studies have examined whether whole-organism performance capacities differ between male morphs, and if so whether any such differences affect fighting ability. We show how ontogenetic changes in performance and morphology have given rise to two distinct life-stage male morphs exhibiting different fighting tactics within the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis). Field studies show a bimodal distribution of adult males within a single population: larger 'heavyweight' males have relatively large heads and high bite forces for their size, whereas smaller 'lightweight' males have smaller heads and lower bite forces. In staged fights between size-matched heavyweight males, males with greater biting ability won more frequently, whereas in lightweight fights, males with greater jumping velocity and acceleration won more often. Because growth in reptiles is indeterminate, and the anole males examined are sexually mature, we propose that the heavyweight morph arose through selection against males with small heads and poor bite forces at the lightweight-heavyweight size transition. Our findings imply that one may not be able to predict male fighting success (and hence potential mating success) by examining aspects of male 'quality' at only one life stage.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agonistic Behavior / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Weights and Measures
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology
  • Jaw / physiology
  • Lizards / anatomy & histology*
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Louisiana
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Phenotype*
  • Selection, Genetic