Advertisement

War and peace: plasticity of aggression and the social context of displays in male Australian Water Dragons

  • Troy A. BairdEmail author
  • Teresa D. Baird
  • Richard Shine
Original Paper
  • 22 Downloads

Abstract

Detailed behavioral observations of the same urban population of Water Dragons (Intellagama lesueurii) during two reproductive periods 7 years apart (2009 vs. 2016) revealed a dramatic change in aggression and the social context of male displays. Differences in the behavior of 2016 males may be a consequence of increased visibility of conspecifics due to anthropogenic removal of vegetation, however, the density of lizards was also lower in 2016 than in 2009. No males, and only 19.4% of females present in 2009 survived to 2016. Males present in 2016 tended to be smaller, and had significantly smaller heads relative to body size. They engaged in fewer aggressive contests but held larger territories. Responses to perturbation of social hierarchies (by experimental removal of rival territory owners and spontaneous take-overs by male challengers) were less intense than in 2009. Unlike 2009 males that gave more displays when contesting rivals, 2016 male territory owners gave proportionally more displays when interacting with females. We attribute these shifts in male aggression and display context to altered potential for long-range signaling. Our results reinforce the point that social behavior in lizards can be highly flexible, and that changes in environmental factors may elicit such shifts. Thus, short-term studies of social behavior—even if conducted in great detail—may fail to capture the full range of behavioral plasticity that can be exhibited over longer periods.

Keywords

Behavioral plasticity Intraspecific communication Physignathus lesueurii 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Methods for capture, measurement, marking, temporary housing, and observation of Water Dragons were conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (permit # S12905), and the Animal Ethics Committee, University of Sydney (L04/9—2009/1/5063). The Management of Flynn’s Beach Resort and the Blue Water Bar and Grill, Port Macquarie, NSW granted permission to study lizards on their property. We thank M. Elphick, M. Greenles, A. Haythornwaite, A. Krause, S. Lafave, C. McGill, D. Pike, T. Shine, and W. Unsell for valuable logistical support, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. We are very grateful to G. Hill, B. Jordan, and C. and D. Smith for access to the study site and their assistance. Special thanks to A. Greenway, M. Hainsworth, P. Kemsley, and D. Smith whose enthusiasm and keen appreciation of Water Dragons contributed greatly to this project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

References

  1. Alberti M, Marzluff J, Hunt VM (2017) Urban driven phenotypic changes: empirical observations and theoretical implications for eco-evolutionary feedback. Philos Trans R Soc B 372:20160029CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altmann JA (1974) Observational study of behaviour: sampling methods. Behaviour 49:227–267PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baird TA (2013a) Lizards and other reptiles as model systems for the study of contest behavior. In: Hardy ICW, Briffa M (eds) Animal contests. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 258–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baird TA (2013b) Social life on the rocks: behavioral diversity and sexual selection in collared lizards. In: Lutterschmidt WI (ed) Reptiles in research: investigations of ecology, physiology and behavior from desert to sea. Nova Science Publishers, New York, pp 213–245Google Scholar
  5. Baird TA (2018) Live fast and prosper: early territory defence is not costly in male collared lizards, Crotaphytus collaris. Bio J Linnean Soc 123:628–647CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baird TA, Baird TD (2014) Sexual selection under predation risk: adaptation in a master architect, the Caribbean sand tilefish. In: Watson P (ed) Social behavior: evolutionary pathways, environmental influences and impairments. Nova Publishers, New York, pp 1–45Google Scholar
  7. Baird TA, Sloan CL, Timanus DK (2001) Intra- and inter-seasonal variation in the socio-spatial behavior of adult male collared lizards, Crotaphytus collaris (Reptilia, Crotaphytidae). Ethology 107:15–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baird TA, Baird TD, Shine R (2012) Aggressive transition between alternative male social tactics in a long-lived Australian dragon (Physignathus lesueurii) living at high density. PLoS ONE 7:1–8Google Scholar
  9. Baird TA, Baird TD, Shine R (2013) Showing red: male coloration signals same-sex rivals in an Australian Water Dragon. Herpetologica 69:436–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Baird TA, Lovern MB, Shine R (2014) Heightened aggression and winning contests increase corticosterone but decrease testosterone in male Australian Water Dragons. Horm Behav 66:393–400PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Baxter-Gilbert J (2014) Heterospecific coprophagy in an eastern Water Dragon, Intellagama lesueurii lesueurii (Gray 1831). Herpetofauna 44:34–37Google Scholar
  12. Baxter-Gilbert JH (2018) Behavioural and biological responses of Australian water dragons (Intellagama lesueurii) to urbanization. PhD thesis, Macquarie UniversityGoogle Scholar
  13. Baxter-Gilbert JH, Whiting MJ (2018) Street fighters: bite force, injury rates, and density of urban Water Dragons (Intellagama lesueurii). Aust Ecol 101:1–60.  https://doi.org/10.1111/aec.12670 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Berry KH (1974) The ecology and social behavior of the chuckwalla (Sauromalus obesus obesus Baird). Univ Calif Publ Zool 101:1–60Google Scholar
  15. Brattstrom BH (1974) The evolution of reptilian social behavior. Am Zool 14:35–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Braun CA, Baird TA, York JR (2018) Behavioral plasticity in physically variable microhabitats: a field test of the potential adaptive consequences in male collared lizards. Biol J Linn Soc 125:37–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bull CM, Cooper SJB, Baghurst BC (1998) Social monogamy and extra-pair fertilization in an Australian lizard, Tiliqua rugosa. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 44:63–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clifford HT, Hamley T (1982) Seed dispersal by Water Dragons. Qld Nat 23:49Google Scholar
  19. Cogger HG (2014) Reptiles and amphibians of Australia, 7th edn. Reed Books, ChatswoodCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Courtice PG (1981) Respiration in the eastern Water Dragon, Physignathus lesueurii (Agamidae). Comp Biochem Physiol 68A:429–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dugan B, Wiewandt TV (1982) Socio-ecological determinants of mating strategies in iguanine lizards. In: Burghardt GM, Rand AS (eds) Iguanas of the World: their behavior, ecology, and conservation. Noyes, Park Ridge, pp 320–340Google Scholar
  22. Eason PK, Stamps JA (2001) The effect of visibility on space use by territorial red-capped cardinals. Behaviour 138:19–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Endler JA (1992) Signals, signal conditions, and the direction of evolution. Am Nat 139:S125–S153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Evans LT (1951) Field study of the social behavior of the black lizard, Ctenosaura pectinate. Amer Mus Novit 1493:1–26Google Scholar
  25. Forsman A (2015) Rethinking phenotypic plasticity and its consequences for individuals, populations and species. Heredity 115:276–284PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fox SF, McCoy JK, Baird TA (2003) Lizard social behavior. Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  27. Frère CH, Chadrasoma D, Whiting MJ (2015) Polyandry in dragon lizards: inbred paternal genotypes sire fewer offspring. Ecol Evol 5:1686–1692PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ghalambor K, Angeloni LM, Carroll SP (2010) Behavior as phenotypic plasticity. In: Fox C, Westneat D (eds) Evolutionary behavioral ecology. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 90–107Google Scholar
  29. Greer AE (1990) The biology and evolution of Australian lizards. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping NortonGoogle Scholar
  30. Gvoždík L, Van Damme R (2003) Evolutionary maintenance of sexual dimorphism in head size in Zootoca vivipara: a test of two hypotheses. J Zool Lond 259:7–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Harlow PS, Harlow MF (1997) Captive reproduction and longevity in the eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii). Herpetofauna 27:14–19Google Scholar
  32. Hoskin C (2010) Husbandry guidelines for the Australian Water Dragon, Physignathus lesuerii (Reptilia: Agamidae). Australian Museum, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  33. Johnson MT, Munshi-South J (2017) Evolution of life in urban environments. Science 358:607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Johnson MA, Revell LJ, Losos JB (2010) Behavioral convergence and adaptive radiation: effects of habitat use on territory behavior in Anolis lizards. Evolution 64:1151–1159PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Karsten KB, Andriamandimbiariosoa LN, Fox SF, Raxworthy CJ (2009) Sexual selection on body size and secondary sexual characters in 2 closely related sympatric chameleons in Madagascar. Behav Ecol 20:1079–1088CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kwiatkowski MA, Sullivan BK (2002) Mating system structure and population density in a polygynous lizard, Sauromalus obesus (=ater). Behav Ecol 13:201–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Littleford-Colquhoun BL, Clemente C, Whiting MJ, Ortiz-Barrientos D, Frère CH (2017) Archipelagos of the Anthropocene: rapid and extensive differentiation of native terrestrial vertebrates in a single metropolis. Mol Ecol 26:2466–2481PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. MacKay R (1959) Reptiles of Lion Island, New South Wales. Aust Zool 12:308–309Google Scholar
  39. Meek R, Avery R, Weir E (2001) Physignathus lesueurii (Australian Water Dragon): predation on a skink, Lampropholis delicata. Herp Bull 76:31–32Google Scholar
  40. Molina-Borja M, Padron-Fumero M, Alfonso-Martin T (1998) Morphological and behavioral traits affecting the intensity and outcome of male contests in Gallotia galloti galloti (Family Lacertidae). Ethology 104:314–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Oliveira RF, Taborsky M, Brockmann HJ (2013) Reproductive tactics an integrative approach. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  42. Olsson MM, Shine R (1996) How and why does reproductive success increase with age? A case study using sand lizards (Lacerta agilis). Oecologia 105:175–178PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Price TD, Qvarnströn A, Irwin DE (2003) The role of phenotypic plasticity in driving evolution. Proc R Soc B 270:1433–1440PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Prieto AA, Ryan MJ (1978) Some observations of the social behavior of the Arizona chuckwalla, Sauromalus obesus tumidus (Reptilia, Lacerta, Iguanidae). J Herpetol 12:327–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rice WR (1989) Analyzing tables of statistical tests. Evol 43:223–225Google Scholar
  46. Rose B (1982) Lizard home ranges: methodology and functions. J Herpetol 16:253–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rosenthal GG, Stuart-Fox D (2012) Environmental disturbance and animal communication. In: Candolin U, Wong BBM (eds) Behavioral responses to a changing world. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 16–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ryan MJ (1982) Variation in iguanine social organization: Mating systems in chuckwallas (Sauromalus). In: Burghardt GM, Rand AS (eds) Iguanas of the world: their behavior, ecology, and conservation. Noyes, Park Ridge, pp 380–390Google Scholar
  49. Shochat E, Warren PS, Faeth SH, McIntyre NE, Hope D (2006) From patterns to emerging processes in mechanistic urban ecology. TREE 21:186–191PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Sih A (2004) A behavioral ecological view of phenotypic plasticity. In: DeWitt TJ, Scheiner SM (eds) Phenotypic plasticity: functional and conceptual approaches. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 112–125Google Scholar
  51. Stone PA, Baird TA (2002) Estimating lizard home range: the Rose hypothesis revisited. J Herpetol 36:427–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Thompson MB (1993) Estimates of population structure of the eastern Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii (Reptilia: Agamidae) along riverside habitat. Wild Res 20:613–619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Turner FB (1971) Estimates of lizard home ranges. Herpetol Rev 3:77Google Scholar
  54. Warner RR, Hoffman SG (1980) Population density and the economics of territory defense in a coral reef fish. Ecology 61:722–780CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. West-Eberhard MJ (2003) Developmental plasticity and evolution. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  56. Whiting MJ, Nagy KA, Bateman PW (2003) Evaluation and maintenance of social status-signal badges. In: Fox SF, McCoy JK, Baird TA (eds) Lizard social behavior. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 47–82Google Scholar
  57. Wildlife Health Australia Factsheet (2018) Yellow fungus and related diseases in Australian reptiles. https://www.wildlifehealthaustralia.com/au
  58. Wilson SK, Knowles DG (1992) Australia’s reptiles, a photographic reference to the terrestrial reptiles of Australia. Angus and Robertson, PymbleGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilson SK, Swan G (2017) A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 5th edn. New Holland Publishers, ChatswoodGoogle Scholar
  60. Winchell KM, Reynolds RG, Prado-Irwin SR, Puente-Rolón AR, Revell LJ (2016) Phenotypic shifts in urban areas in the tropic lizard Anolis cristatellus. Evolution 70:1009–1022PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Troy A. Baird
    • 1
    Email author
  • Teresa D. Baird
    • 1
  • Richard Shine
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Central OklahomaEdmondUSA
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations