Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 9, pp 1501–1510 | Cite as

Geographic variation in aggressive signalling behaviour of the Jacky dragon

  • Marco D. BarqueroEmail author
  • Richard Peters
  • Martin J. Whiting
Original Paper


Signal diversification is often the product of sexual and/or natural selection and may be accompanied by genetic differentiation or simply reflect a plastic response to social and environmental variables. We use an agamid lizard endemic to Australia, the Jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus), to examine the relationships between population relatedness, morphology and signalling behaviour. We also tested whether males are able to discriminate among rivals from different populations and whether they respond more aggressively to more closely related populations. We studied three populations, two of which belong to the same genetic clade. Individuals from the two most closely related populations were also more similar in morphology than lizards from the third, more distant, population. However, all three populations differed in characteristics of their signalling behaviour including latency to display and the interval between displays. In addition, animals from all populations showed similar levels of aggression when matched with individuals from the same or different populations in staged trials and thus did not show evidence of population-level discrimination. We argue that display variation might be a consequence of behavioural plasticity and that, despite difference in genetic structure, morphology and behaviour, this species retains a cohesive communication system.


Amphibolurus Australia Lizard Population variation Visual displays 



We are grateful to Scott Keogh and Mitzy Pepper for their help with the genetic analyses. We thank curators of the Australian Museum, Victoria Museum and South Australia Museum for providing access to reptile and tissue collections. This study was financially supported by Macquarie University, Universidad de Costa Rica and Consejo Nacional para Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas of Costa Rica (grant number: FI-252-11).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution (Macquarie University’s Animal Ethics Committee No. ARA 2010/034) or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Supplementary material


(MPEG 27150 kb)

265_2015_1962_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (128 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 127 kb)


  1. Barnard P (1991) Ornament and body size variation and their measurement in natural populations. Biol J Linn Soc 42:379–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bates D, Maechler M, Bolker B, Walker S (2014) lme4: linear mixed-effects models using Eigen and S4. R package version 1.1-7, Accessed 20 October 2014
  3. Bensch S, Hasselquist D, Nielsen B, Hansson B (1998) Higher fitness for philopatric than for immigrant males in a semi-isolated population of great reed warblers. Evolution 52:877–883CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birkhead TR (1978) Behavioural adaptations to high density nesting in the common guillemot Uria aalge. Anim Behav 26:321–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bloch N, Irschick DJ (2006) An analysis of inter-population divergence in visual display behavior of the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis). Ethology 112:370–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blumstein DT, Daniel JC (2007) Quantifying behavior the JWatcher way. Sinauer Associates, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  7. Carpenter CC, Ferguson GW (1977) Variation and evolution of stereotyped behavior in reptiles. In: Gans C, Tinkle D (eds) Biology of the reptilia: ecology and behavior A, vol 7. Academic Press, New York, pp 335–554Google Scholar
  8. Carpenter CC, Badham JA, Kimble B (1970) Behavior patterns of three species of Amphibolurus (Agamidae). Copeia 1970:497–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cogger HG (2000) Reptiles and amphibians of Australia, 6th edn. Reed New Holland, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  10. Dunbrack R, Clarke L (2003) Escalated aggression in interpopulation brook trout dyads: evidence for behavioural divergence. Can J Zool 81:911–915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Endler JA (1987) Predation, light intensity and courtship behaviour in Poecilia reticulata (Pisces: Poeciliidae). Anim Behav 35:1376–1385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Endler JA, Westcott DA, Madden JR, Robson T (2005) Animal visual systems and the evolution of color patterns: sensory processing illuminates signal evolution. Evolution 59:1795–1818CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Ferguson GW (1971) Variation and evolution of the push-up displays of the side-blotched lizard genus Uta (Iguanidae). Syst Zool 20:79–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fleishman LJ (1992) The influence of the sensory system and the environment on motion patterns in the visual displays of anoline lizards and other vertebrates. Am Nat 139:S36–S61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Foster SA (1999) The geography of behaviour: an evolutionary perspective. Trends Ecol Evol 14:190–195CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Harlow PS, Taylor JE (2000) Reproductive ecology of the jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus): an agamid lizard with temperature-dependent sex determination. Austral Ecol 25:640–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hill GE (1994) Geographic variation in male ornamentation and female mate preference in the house finch: a comparative test of models of sexual selection. Behav Ecol 5:64–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Irwin DE, Thimgan MP, Irwin JH (2008) Call divergence is correlated with geographic and genetic distance in greenish warblers (Phylloscopus trochiloides): a strong role for stochasticity in signal evolution? J Evol Biol 21:435–448CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Jenssen TA (1971) Display analysis of Anolis nebulosus (Sauria, Iguanidae). Copeia 1971:197–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jenssen TA (1977) Evolution of anoline lizard display behavior. Am Zool 17:203–215Google Scholar
  21. Leal M, Fleishman LJ (2004) Differences in visual signal design and detectability between allopatric populations of Anolis lizards. Am Nat 163:26–39CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Lovern MB, Jenssen TA, Orrell KS, Tuchak T (1999) Comparisons of temporal display structure across contexts and populations in male Anolis carolinensis: signal stability or lability? Herpetologica 55:222–234Google Scholar
  23. Martins EP, Bissell AN, Morgan KK (1998) Population differences in a lizard communicative display: evidence for rapid change in structure and function. Anim Behav 56:1113–1119CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Ord TJ, Evans CS (2003) Display rate and opponent assessment in the Jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus): an experimental analysis. Behaviour 140:1495–1508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ord TJ, Blumstein DT, Evans CS (2002) Ecology and signal evolution in lizards. Biol J Linn Soc 77:127–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ord TJ, Peters RA, Clucas B, Stamps JA (2007) Lizards speed up visual displays in noisy motion habitats. Proc R Soc Lond B 274:1057–1062CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pepper M, Barquero MD, Whiting MJ, Keogh JS (2014) A multi-locus molecular phylogeny for Australia’s iconic Jacky Dragon (Agamidae: Amphibolurus muricatus): phylogeographic structure along the Great Dividing Range of south-eastern Australia. Mol Phylogenet Evol 71:149–156CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Persons MH, Fleishman LJ, Frye MA, Stimphil ME (1999) Sensory response patterns and the evolution of visual signal design in anoline lizards. J Comp Physiol A 184:585–607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Peters RA (2008) Environmental motion delays the detection of movement-based signals. Biol Lett 4:2–5PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Peters RA, Evans CS (2003) Introductory tail-flick of the Jacky dragon visual display: signal efficacy depends upon duration. J Exp Biol 206:4293–4307CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Peters RA, Ord TJ (2003) Display response of the Jacky Dragon, Amphibolurus muricatus (Lacertilia: Agamidae), to intruders: a semi-Markovian process. Austral Ecol 28:499–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Peters RA, Hemmi JM, Zeil J (2007) Signaling against the wind: modifying motion-signal structure in response to increased noise. Curr Biol 17:1231–1234CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Podos J (2001) Correlated evolution of morphology and vocal signal structure in Darwin’s finches. Nature 409:185–188CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Snell-Rood EC (2013) An overview of the evolutionary causes and consequences of behavioural plasticity. Anim Behav 85:1004–1011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Steinberg DS, Losos JB, Schoener TW, Spiller DA, Kolbe JJ, Leal M (2014) Predation-associated modulation of movement-based signals by a Bahamian lizard. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:9187–9192PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Stuart-Fox DM, Moussalli A, Marshall NJ, Owens IPF (2003) Conspicuous males suffer higher predation risk: visual modeling and experimental evidence from lizards. Anim Behav 66:541–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stuart-Fox D, Moussalli A, Whiting MJ (2007) Natural selection on social signals: signal efficacy and the evolution of chameleon display coloration. Am Nat 170:916–930CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Uy JAC, Borgia G (2000) Sexual selection drives rapid divergence in bowerbird display traits. Evolution 54:273–278CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Watt MJ, Joss JMP (2003) Structure and function of visual displays produced by male Jacky Dragons, Amphibolurus muricatus, during social interactions. Brain Behav Evol 61:172–183CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. White J (1790) Journal of a voyage to New South Wales, with sixty-five plates of non descript animals, birds, lizards, serpents, curious cones of trees and other natural productions. J. Debrett, LondonGoogle Scholar
  41. Wiens JJ (2000) Decoupled evolution of display morphology and display behaviour in phrynosomatid lizards. Biol J Linn Soc 70:597–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Young JR, Hupp JW, Bradbury JW, Braun CE (1994) Phenotypic divergence of secondary sexual traits among sage grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus, populations. Anim Behav 47:1353–1362CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco D. Barquero
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Richard Peters
    • 3
  • Martin J. Whiting
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Sede del CaribeUniversidad de Costa RicaMontes de OcaCosta Rica
  3. 3.Department of Ecology, Environment & EvolutionLa Trobe UniversityBundooraAustralia

Personalised recommendations