Temporary alteration of local social structure in a threatened population of Cuban iguanas (Cyclura nubila)
In small, insular populations, behavioral patterns that lead to increased variance in individual reproductive success can accelerate loss of genetic variation. Over a 1-year period, we documented behavior and hormone levels in a breeding group of adult Cuban iguanas (Cyclura nubila) at Guantánamo Bay. Male dominance was associated with body and head size, display behavior, testosterone levels, home-range size, and proximity to females. Based on their success in agonistic encounters, we ranked males in a linear dominance hierarchy. During the subsequent breeding season, we conducted a removal experiment in which the five highest-ranking males were temporarily relocated from the study site. Although we were unable to assess reproductive success directly, previously lower-ranking males assumed control of vacated territories, won more fights, and increased their proximity to females in the absence of the dominant males. When it results in greater mating opportunities for otherwise socially suppressed individuals, temporary alteration of local social structure may help limit erosion of genetic variation in small, insular populations.
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