, Volume 101, Issue 10, pp 831–837 | Cite as

Now you see me, now you don’t: iridescence increases the efficacy of lizard chromatic signals

  • Guillem Pérez i de LanuzaEmail author
  • Enrique Font
Original Paper


The selective forces imposed by primary receivers and unintended eavesdroppers of animal signals often act in opposite directions, constraining the development of conspicuous coloration. Because iridescent colours change their chromatic properties with viewer angle, iridescence offers a potential mechanism to relax this trade-off when the relevant observers involved in the evolution of signal design adopt different viewer geometries. We used reflectance spectrophotometry and visual modelling to test if the striking blue head coloration of males of the lizard Lacerta schreibeiri (1) is iridescent and (2) is more conspicuous when viewed from the perspective of conspecifics than from that of the main predators of adult L. schreibeiri (raptors). We demonstrate that the blue heads of L. schreiberi show angle-dependent changes in their chromatic properties. This variation allows the blue heads to be relatively conspicuous to conspecific viewers located in the same horizontal plane as the sender, while simultaneously being relatively cryptic to birds that see it from above. This study is the first to suggest the use of angle-dependent chromatic signals in lizards, and provides the first evidence of the adaptive function of iridescent coloration based on its detectability to different observers.


Coloration Communication Lizard Signal efficacy Viewer geometry Visual modelling 



We are especially grateful to J. Heredero for the design and construction of the goniometer. We thank M. C. Stoddard for helping with TetraColorSpace, and L. J. Fleishman for generously sharing with us visual sensitivity data for Platysaurus broadleyi. This work was funded by a Portuguese FCT postdoctoral fellowship (SFRH/BPD/94582/2013) and a project from the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (CGL2011-23751).

Ethical standards

The study was performed according to guidelines provided by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) and the Animal Behavior Society (ABS). The experiments complied with current EU and Spanish laws and permits were generously provided by the Sierra Norte de Guadalajara Natural Park (Junta de Castilla-la Mancha).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CIBIO Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, InBIOUniversidade do PortoVila do CondePortugal
  2. 2.Ethology Laboratory Institut Cavanilles de Biodiversitat i Biologia EvolutivaUniversitat de ValènciaValenciaSpain

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