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Resolving tradeoffs among crypsis, escape behavior, and microhabitat use in sexually dichromatic species

Abstract

Variation in color pattern between populations of cryptic animals is common and typically attributed to selection pressures from visual predators combined with variation in substrate composition. However, little is known about how cryptic color pattern relates to varied rates of predation, and few studies simultaneously analyze patterns of escape behavior and microhabitat use along with variation in color pattern, even though these traits evolve in tandem. Here, we use a combination of calibrated photographs and spectrometry to examine the influence of spatial heterogeneity in rates of predation on dorsal brightness in the Florida scrub lizard (Sceloporus woodi), a cryptic and sexually dimorphic species. Simultaneously, we analyze patterns of escape behavior and microhabitat use measured in the field. The results of this study indicate that populations inhabiting environments of increased predation have less color variation and more closely match the color of local substrate than populations sampled in environments of relaxed predation. Populations exposed to increased predation also show more pronounced escape behavior and are more selective in their use of microhabitat. Interestingly, geographic variation of dorsal brightness, escape behavior, and microhabitat use were greater for females than for males. Our results not only provide empirical evidence for theories of adaptive coloration, but suggest that sexual dichromatism can be maintained by selection pressures related to predation.

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Acknowledgements

We owe a debt of gratitude to Christine Bedore’s sensory ecology laboratory at Georgia Southern University for aid with spectrophotometric measurements and analyses. We would also like to thank Lauren K. Neel and Chase T. Kinsey for their help in the field collecting lizards. Research in the Ocala National Forest was conducted with permission from the USDA Forest Service (USFS permit # SEM540). All applicable international, international and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed under protocol with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC permit # I15011). Funding for this research was provided by a Graduate Student Professional Development grant from the College of Graduate Studies at Georgia Southern University, as well as a research grant through Sigma Xi’s GIAR.

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Contributions

RWO and LDM conceived, designed, and performed this experiment. Additionally, RWO and LDM analyzed the data used for statistical analyses and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lance D. McBrayer.

Additional information

Student highlight: This work evaluates a rarely tested hypothesis and demonstrates that predation intensity contributes to sexual dichromatism, risk avoidance, and microhabitat use.

Communicated by Jean-François Le Galliard.

Electronic supplementary material

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442_2018_4301_MOESM1_ESM.docx

Supplemental Figure 1. Comparisons between habitat type (F(1, 21) = 0.92; P = 0.3479) and sex (F(1, 21) = 3.77; P = 0.0663) of dorsal hue from the perspective of an avian predator taken from spectral data. (DOCX 103 kb)

442_2018_4301_MOESM2_ESM.docx

Supplemental Figure 2. Comparisons between habitat type (F(1,21) = 1.27; P = 0.274) and sex (F(1,21) = 1.32; P = 0.264) of dorsal saturation from the perspective of an avian predator taken from spectral data. (DOCX 140 kb)

442_2018_4301_MOESM3_ESM.docx

Supplemental Figure 3. Comparisons between habitat type (F(1,21) = 3.77; P = 0.00125) and sex (F(1, 21) = 2.00; 0.0573) of dorsal brightness from the perspective of an avian predator taken from spectral data. Note that spectral data of dorsal brightness mirror RGB data. (DOCX 135 kb)

442_2018_4301_MOESM4_ESM.docx

Supplemental Figure 4. Relationship between brightness from spectrometry data and brightness measured from calibrated photographs. Gray cloud surrounding line represents ± one SEM (ρ = 0.96, P < 0.001). (DOCX 1346 kb)

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Orton, R.W., McBrayer, L.D. Resolving tradeoffs among crypsis, escape behavior, and microhabitat use in sexually dichromatic species. Oecologia 189, 91–104 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-018-4301-5

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Keywords

  • Predator evasion
  • Protective coloration
  • Visual background
  • Habitat alteration