Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 602–607 | Cite as

Signal use by collared lizards, Crotaphytus collaris: the effects of familiarity and threat

  • Jerry F. Husak
Original Article


Many lizard species use lateral compressions of the body during agonistic encounters. I investigated the signal value of the frequency at which these displays are presented and how that rate is affected by familiarity and threat. The response of resident collared lizards (Crotaphytus collaris) to tethered strangers, neighbors on the correct boundary, and neighbors displaced to the opposite boundary, was recorded by counting the number of lateral displays directed at the intruder and the number of subsequent acts of escalated aggression. There was no relationship between size asymmetry of the opponent and the rate of lateral display or aggression, nor was there a relationship between body size and the rate of lateral display or aggression. However, there was a high positive correlation between lateral display rate and aggression, suggesting that the rate of lateral displays is a conventional signal of motivation to attack. The highest rates of display and aggression were directed toward displaced neighbors, somewhat less toward strangers, and the least toward neighbors at the correct boundary. The ratio of aggressive acts to lateral displays followed the same pattern, presumably because the perceived threat to the resident decreases in the same order. Taken together these data suggest that collared lizards are able to assess the threat of an opponent and signal motivation to respond aggressively towards that opponent.


Aggressive signals Crotaphytus collaris Lateral displays Motivation Threat displays 



I would like to thank E. Ackland and D. Riedle for help in the field and OG&E Electric Services for access to the study site. I also thank D. Duvall and especially S.F. Fox, C.C. Peterson, and Y. Brandt for thoughtful insights and comments on previous versions of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

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