Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 439–447 | Cite as

Bright turquoise as an intraspecific signal in the chameleon grasshopper (Kosciuscola tristis)

  • Kate D. L. Umbers
  • Nikolai J. Tatarnic
  • Gregory I. Holwell
  • Marie E. Herberstein
Original Paper


Bright colours often communicate important information between conspecifics. In sexually dichromatic species where males exhibit bright colours, two hypotheses are often invoked to explain the function of the colour. First, if a male’s bright colour contains information about his quality, females may prefer brighter males. Equally, male colour may reliably provide other males with information about fighting ability or resource holding potential. In such circumstances, brighter males may win altercations and/or males may use rival colour to assess their likelihood of winning an interaction. In the chameleon grasshopper (Kosciuscola tristis), males but not females turn bright turquoise when their body temperature exceeds 25 °C. In this study, we tested whether the turquoise phase of colour change has a signaling role in inter- and intrasexual contexts. We predicted that females would prefer bright turquoise males over dull males, but found no evidence from several choice experiments to support this hypothesis. We also predicted that brighter males would win more fights than duller males. Whilst we did not find that brighter males won more fights in staged experiments, we found that the brightness of males who chose to enter fights was significantly correlated with their opponents’ brightness. Our results suggest that the brightness of males’ turquoise phase may provide competitors with important information about their rival’s fighting ability.


Colour change Brightness Alpine Male competition Female choice Sexual signal 



We thank David Firth for advice on the Bradley–Terry model; Nola Umbers, Mark Umbers, Natalie Alves, James C. O’Hanlon for excellent and enthusiastic field assistance; Leanne Battams, Czarina Manahan, Gemma Conroy for lab assistance; Sean McGlinchy and family for accommodation at Parallel Chalets; and the Australia & Pacific Science Foundation and Thredbo Sports Pty Ltd. for financially supporting this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kate D. L. Umbers
    • 1
    • 4
  • Nikolai J. Tatarnic
    • 2
    • 4
  • Gregory I. Holwell
    • 3
  • Marie E. Herberstein
    • 4
  1. 1.Research School of BiologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Evolution & Ecology Research CentreUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia

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