Asymmetrical dewlap color in Anolis lineatus on Curaçao

In September, 2011, Alex Dornburg (Yale), Andy Jones (Yale), Teresa Iglesias (UC Davis), Dan Warren (UT Austin) and I made our yearly pilgrimage to study the marine and herpetological fauna of Curaçao. On the advice of J. Losos, one of our missions this year was to document the dewlap color asymmetry in Anolis lineatus.

In 1967, Stan and Patricia Rand published a paper on the natural history of A. lineatus and noted that:

“The dewlap is large in the male; extended it has a wide border with bright orange skin around a block central spot. The spot is crossed by several widely separated rows of white scales. The border on one side is closely set with yellow or whitish scales, on the other side, the scales are rudimentary and colored like the skin. About half the males have the scales well developed on the right side of the dewlap, about half on the left… one side of the dewlap appears to have a bright orange border, the other side a yellow orange border. The females have a much smaller dewlap, but colored like the males’ and also asymmetrical, though less conspicuously so.”

We braved multiple attacks of push-ups and head bobs and managed to collect and photograph multiple individuals.

Note the large, white scales in the orange field of the dewlaps:

versus the other side of the dewlap which lacks the large, white scales:

The orange vs. yellow-orange difference is a bit subtle and not easily visible in these photos, but it’s there.  Like Rand and Rand, we found a roughly equal distribution of individuals with the white scales on the left, and those on the right.

What explains this asymmetry?   Are they using the different colors to warn males and attract females?

We are thinking of hypotheses to test during our 2012 trip to the island and we’d appreciate hearing other ideas from other researchers.

Illustrations by A. Seago


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