Headbob displays signal sex, social context and species identity in a Liolaemus lizard

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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Animal communication has a key role in animals and identifying the signals’ function is crucial. Most lizards communicate with each other through visual signals with headbob displays, which are up-and-down movements of the head or the anterior part of the body. In the present work, I described and analysed the headbob displays of Liolaemus pacha lizards in their natural habitat. Specifically, the objectives were to describe the form of headbobs, to analyse their structure and to compare between sexes and social contexts. Adult lizards were video-recorded, registering the sex and the social context, classified as broadcast, same-sex and female-male interactions. The form and structure of sequences and headbobs were obtained. To evaluate the effect of sex and social context on the structure of headbob sequences and on headbob bouts, generalized linear mixed models were made. Intersexual differences were found in headbob display frequency and in the structure of headbob sequences. Lizards in same-sex context made sequences with more bouts, shorter intervals, headbob bouts of longer duration and higher amplitude than broadcast and female-male context. Presence of concurring behaviour such as lateral compression, gular expansion, and back arching occurred simultaneously with headbobs in same-sex context. Liolaemus pacha made four different headbob bout forms, and males were characterised by using bouts A and B, whereas females used bouts D more frequent. Sex and social context influenced only the structure of bouts A and B. The results showed that bouts A and B might be multi-component signals and non-redundant.

Headbob displays signal sex, social context and species identity in a Liolaemus lizard

in Amphibia-Reptilia



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    Same-sex context: video captures showing different males which in presence of other males, performed headbob displays with back arching, lateral compression, and gular expansion (A-B). Female-male context: a male approaches a female by displaying headbobs, with a low posture (C and D). When the male is near to the female, he can press with his snout the female cloacal area (E). If female rejects him, she raises in her four limbs fully stretched, inflates her body, raises her tail and moves away hopping from the side (F). Broadcast context: Headbob displays can be produced in absence of conspecifics, with a resting posture, characterized by hind limbs flexed and forelimbs going from stretched to flexed. Male (G) and female (H) L. pacha.

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    Analysis of headbob display structure. A) Headbob sequences, showing the initial level (y0) for each headbob bout, the intervals, and bout duration. From each sequence, the mean interval, the mean headbob bout duration and the number of bouts per sequence were obtained. B) Headbob bout, indicating the units that comprise: U1, U2, U3. From each bout, the amplitude and duration of each unit were also measured.

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    Analyses of headbob sequences. Parameter estimates (PE ± SE), 95% confidence interval limits (CL) for explanatory variables (sex and/or context) describing variation in mean bout duration, the number of bouts per sequence, the presence of concurring behaviours (gular inflation, lateral compression and, back arching) and, mean interval. Estimates represent the difference between sexes and contexts, with respect to the reference values (females and same-sex context), when correspond.

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    Effect of sex and social context in mean headbob bout duration, the number of bouts per sequence, and mean interval, showing standard errors. Means with the same letter are not significantly different (P>0.05).

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    Liolaemus pacha headbob bouts forms: type A (top left), type B (bottom left), type C (top right) and type D (bottom left).

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    Analyses of headbob bouts A and B. Parameter estimates (PE ± SE), and P-value of explanatory variables (sex and context), describing variation in amplitude and duration of units of headbob bouts A and B. Estimate values represent the difference between sexes and contexts, with respect to the reference values (females and same-sex context), when correspond.

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    Amplitude (mm) and duration (s) of the headbob bout types of male and female L. pacha, showing n, mean values ± SE and, CV% of each unit. Bold values of each unit are significantly different between sexes (P0.05).

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    Amplitude (mm) and duration (s) of the headbob bout types among different social contexts, showing n, mean values ± SE and, CV% of each unit. Bold values of each unit are significantly different between contexts (P0.05).


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