The Emergence and Behavioral Stability of Social Status in Green Anole Lizard (Anolis carolinensis) Dyads

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
W. J. Farrell, D. T. Nair, B. M. Miller, A. M. Zigler
Animal Behavior and Cognition
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Male green anole lizards engage in behavioral displays and stress-hormone mediated color changes during territorial aggression. We examined 12 male dyads during two weeks of cohabitation to document the aggressive behavior of dominant and subordinate animals and to examine the emergence and behavioral stability of dominant/subordinate social status. Two hour observations conducted on alternating days (Days 2 – 14) of cohabitation indicated that dyads established stable dominate/subordinate relationships in which dominant animals performed more aggressive displays, were typically greener, and monopolized space and resources relative to their subordinate opponent during two weeks of cohabitation. These behavioral asymmetries emerged rapidly following dyad formation; animals that were dominant during prolonged cohabitation exhibited more aggressive displays (pushups and dewlap extensions) and greener body color than subordinates during the first two hours of cohabitation (Day 1). In contrast, display and eyespot blackening latencies did not differ between animals that eventually emerged as dominant and subordinate. These results provide the most in-depth longitudinal description and analysis of stable asymmetries in the display behavior exhibited by male green anoles during long-term cohabitation to date and suggest that anole aggressive displays are honest signals. They also indicate that display intensity/persistence and body color can be reliably used to distinguish dominant from subordinate animals both at the group and dyad levels of analysis during the first two hours of cohabitation.


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