Tail autotomy is associated with boldness in male but not female water anoles

Abstract

Sex differences in personality traits, such as boldness, are often driven by differences in life history strategies. Specifically, in a polygynous mating system where males defend territories to acquire mates, it may be beneficial for males to exhibit higher levels of boldness compared to females. However, males may also suffer a higher cost due to their bold behavior. Yet, few studies have documented evidence of the differential costs of boldness between the sexes. We examined these relationships in water anoles (Anolis aquaticus), using tail autotomy as a proxy for predation risk and/or injury from intraspecific competition. We measured boldness as latency to emerge from a refuge into a novel environment. We predicted that (1) males would exhibit bolder behavior than females, (2) boldness would be positively associated with tail autotomy (i.e., lizards with evidence of autotomized tails would be bolder than lizards without evidence of tail autotomy), and (3) a higher proportion of males would exhibit evidence of tail autotomy than females. We found that in our behavioral test, (1) boldness did not differ between the sexes, but that (2) there were sex differences in the costs of boldness, such that boldness was positively associated with tail autotomy in males but not in females, and (3) males tended to be more likely to exhibit evidence of tail autotomy. Together, these results suggest that males may suffer a higher cost of boldness due to sex differences in reproductive strategies.

Significance statement

The sexes often differ in behavior because males and females use different tactics to fulfill reproductive success. Boldness is a personality trait that benefits both sexes in terms of acquiring resources. However, boldness should benefit males more when they defend territories and compete for mates. Though what is the cost of bold behavior and does this differ between the sexes? Here, we found that boldness is associated with risk-induced injuries (tail loss) in male water anoles, but not in females. The loss of the tail has been shown to have serious fitness consequences in lizards. Thus, male water anoles suffer a higher cost of bold behavior than females. Our results provide insight on the ecological relevance of boldness, and how selection may have led to differences in personality between the sexes.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Data availability

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. Data analyzed in this paper are presented in Online Resource 1 and Online Resource 2 (Tables 1 and 2).

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Acknowledgments

We thank Andrea Fondren, Diana Lopera, Maegan Delfin, Michael-Luca Natt, Denise Ortega, Mykel Lizama, Johniah Gomez, and Scott Walter for assistance with data collection. We would also like to thank Rodolfo Quirós for his logistical support. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Funding

Our research was supported by the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program through the Organization for Tropical Studies Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) for the U.S. Underrepresented Minority Students Summer Program (grant # HRD1712757).

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This research was conducted under the Scientific Research Permit numbers R-SINACPNI-ACLAP-043–2018 and R-SINAC-PNI-ACLAP-022-2019, and all methods were approved by the UCLA Animal Research Committee (ARC-2016–051-03C) and Binghamton University (IACUC Protocol #817-19). All applicable institutional guidelines for the use of animals were followed.

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Talavera, J.B., Carriere, A., Swierk, L. et al. Tail autotomy is associated with boldness in male but not female water anoles. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 75, 44 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-021-02982-w

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Keywords

  • Anolis aquaticus
  • Personality
  • Predation
  • Sex differences