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Motion-based signaling in sympatric species of Australian agamid lizards

Abstract

Signaling species occurring in sympatry are often exposed to similar environmental constraints, so similar adaptations to enhance signal efficacy are expected. However, potentially opposing selective pressures might be present to ensure species recognition. Here, we analyzed the movement-based signals of two pairs of sympatric lizard species to consider how reliable communication is maintained while avoiding misidentification. Our novel approach allows us to quantify signal contrast with plant motion noise at any site we measure, including those utilized by other species. Ctenophorus caudicinctus and Gowidon longirostris differed in display complexity and motor pattern use. They also differed in overall morphology, but their signal contrast scores are strikingly similar. These results demonstrate similar adaptations to their shared environment while maintaining species recognition cues. In contrast, Ctenophorus fordi and Ctenophorus pictus are much closer in appearance, but C. pictus produces considerably higher signal contrast scores, which we suggest is attributable to the absence of territoriality in C. fordi. Taken together, our data provide evidence for adaptation to the local environment in movement-based signals, while also meeting species recognition requirements, but the selective pressure to deal with local conditions is mediated by signal function.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Martin Elizalde, Leanne Scott, Paul Davies, Juan Hernandez, Kate Beskeen, and Matt Sleeth for their invaluable help during the data collection stages of this project.

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Correspondence to Jose A. Ramos.

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Ramos, J.A., Peters, R.A. Motion-based signaling in sympatric species of Australian agamid lizards. J Comp Physiol A 203, 661–671 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-017-1185-5

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Keywords

  • Agamidae
  • Signaling
  • Environmental noise
  • Sympatry
  • Species recognition