Male side-blotched lizards have more than one way to get the girl. Orange males are bullies. Yellows are sneaks. Blues team up with a buddy to protect their territories. Who wins? It depends - on a genetic game of roshambo.
SUBSCRIBE to Deep Look! http://goo.gl/8NwXqt
DEEP LOOK is a ultra-HD (4K) short video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. See the unseen at the very edge of our visible world. Get a new perspective on our place in the universe. Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.
* NEW VIDEOS EVERY OTHER TUESDAY! *
Every spring, keen-eyed biologists carrying fishing poles search the rolling hills near Los Banos, about two hours south of San Francisco. But they’re not looking for fish. They’re catching rock-paper-scissors lizards.
The research team collects Western side-blotched lizards, which come in different shades of blue, orange and yellow.
Barry Sinervo, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, leads the team. Their intricate mating strategies reminded the the researchers of the rock-paper-scissors game where rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper and paper beats rock.
It’s all about territories. Orange males tend to be the biggest and most aggressive. They hold large territories with several females each and are able to oust the somewhat smaller and less aggressive blues. Blue males typically hold smaller territories and more monogamous, each focusing his interest on a single female. Yellow males tend not to even form exclusive territories Instead they use stealth to find unaccompanied females with whom to mate.
The yellow males are particularly successful with females that live in territories held by their more aggressive orange competitors. Because the orange males spread their attention among several females, they aren’t able to guard each individual female against intruding yellow males. But the more monogamous blues males are more vigilant and chase sneaky yellow males away.
Their different strategies keep each other in check making the system stable. Sinervo believes this game has likely been in play for at least 15 million years.
--- How do side-blotched lizards choose a mate?
The males compete with each other, sometimes violently, for access to females. The females generally prefer males of their own color but also give preference to whichever color male is more rare that mating season.
--- Why do lizards do push up and down?
Male lizards do little pushups as a territorial display meant to tell competitors to back off. It’s best to use a warning instead of fighting right away because there’s always a danger of getting hurt in a fight. Some lizards like side-blotched lizards also use slow push ups to warn their neighbors of an incoming threat.
--- Why do side-blotched lizards fight?
Sometimes aggressive territorial displays are not enough to dissuade invaders so side-blotched lizards will resort to fighting. They have small sharp teeth and will lunge at each other inflicting bites and headbutts.
---+ Read the entire article on KQED Science: https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2016/05/17/these-lizards-have-been-playing-rock-paper-scissors-for-15-million-years/
---+ For more information:
The Lab of Dr. Barry Sinervo, LizardLand, University of California, Santa Cruz http://bio.research.ucsc.edu/~barrylab/lizardland/game.html
---+ About KQED
KQED, an NPR and PBS affiliate based in San Francisco, serves the people of Northern California and beyond with a public-supported alternative to commercial media. KQED is also a leader and innovator in interactive media and technology, taking people of all ages on journeys of exploration — exposing them to new people, places and ideas.
Funding for Deep Look is provided in part by PBS Digital Studios and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Deep Look is a project of KQED Science, which is also supported by HopeLab, the David B. Gold Foundation, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, the Vadasz Family Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Smart Family Foundation and the members of KQED.