Sexual Dimorphism in the Sceloporus undulatus Species Complex



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The Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus complex) is a wide ranging North American species complex occurring from the eastern seaboard westward through the great plains and central Rocky Mountains and into the American Southwest. A recent phylogeny suggests four species lineages occur within S. undulatus. Traits within an interbreeding species that are influenced by sexual selection are under different selection pressures and may evolve independently from the selective forces of habitat. Sceloporus lizards have several characters that are influenced by sexual selection. I investigated sexual size dimorphism and allometric relationships of body size (snout vent length), torso length, rear leg length and three measurements of head size in 12 populations from the four species in the S. undulatus complex (N=352) specifically looking for variation among the 4 species. Additionally I investigated the size of signal patches between males and females in three species (N=339 specimens of S. consobrinus, S. cowlesi, S. tristichus) of the S. undulatus complex. Sexual confusion, was recently described in a population of the Sceloporus undulatus complex occurring in White Sands, New Mexico and the behavior is correlated with variation in badge size between male and female lizards. To make inferences about sexual confusion at the species level I investigated the presence and absence of signal patches in female lizards, and compare the sizes of signal patches between males and females. My analyses suggest that torso length and head size are significant sources of sexual size dimorphism but the findings differ from earlier published investigations of sexually dimorphic characters in the species complex. I also find support for the S. undulatus complex being generally a female larger species complex. However two of the 12 populations I investigated displayed male biased sexual size dimorphism. Analysis of signal patches across three species of the S. undulatus complex suggests that sexual dimorphism in signal patch size for S. cowlesi and S. tristichus may not prevent sexual confusion. While the near total absence of signal patches in female S. consobrinus is evidence that sexual confusion is not possible with regards to signal patches.