, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 417–434 | Cite as

Runaway social games, genetic cycles driven by alternative male and female strategies, and the origin of morphs

  • Barry Sinervo


Analysis of evolutionarily stable strategies (ESS) and decade-long field studies indicate that two color morphs of female side-blotched lizards exhibit density- and frequency-dependent strategies. Orange females are r-strategists: they lay large clutches of small progeny that are favored at low density. Conversely, yellow females are K-strategists: they lay small clutches of large progeny that are favored when carrying capacity is exceeded and the population crashes to low density. Interactions among three male morphs resembles a rock-paper-scissors (RPS) game. Fertilization success of males depends on frequency of neighboring morphs. Orange males usurp territory from blue neighbors and thereby mate with many females. However, orange males are vulnerable to cuckoldry by sneaky yellow males that mimic females. The yellow strategy is thwarted in turn by the mate-guarding strategy of blue. Sinervo and Lively (1996) developed a simple asexual model of the RPS game. Here, we model the dynamics of male and female morphs with one- and two-locus genetic models. Male and female games were considered in isolation and modeled as games that were genetically coupled by the same locus. Parameters for payoff matrices, which describe the force of frequency-dependent selection in ESS games, were estimated from free-ranging animals. Period of cycles in nature was 5 years for males and 2 years for females. Only the one locus model with three alleles (o, b, y) was capable of driving rapid cycles in male and female games. Furthermore, the o allele must be dominant to the y allele in females. Finally, the amplitude of male cycles was only reproduced in genetic models which allowed for irreversible plasticity of by genotypes, which is consistent with hormonally-induced changes that transform some males with yellow to dark blue. We also critique experimental designs that are necessary to detect density- and frequency-dependent selection in nature. Finally, runaway ESS games are discussed in the context of self-reinforcing genetic correlations that build and promote the formation of morphotypic variation.

density-dependent selection frequency-dependent selection lizards morphs polymorphism social selection 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry Sinervo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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