Alternative mating tactics in male chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) are evident in both long-term body color and short-term courtship pattern

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Abstract

Alternative mating tactics in males of various taxa are associated with body color, body size, and social status. Chameleons are known for their ability to change body color following immediate environmental or social stimuli. In this study, we examined whether the differential appearance of male common chameleon during the breeding season is indeed an expression of alternative mating tactics. We documented body color of males and used computer vision techniques to classify images of individuals into discrete color patterns associated with seasons, individual characteristics, and social contexts. Our findings revealed no differences in body color and color patterns among males during the nonbreeding season. However, during the breeding season males appeared in several color displays, which reflected body size, social status, and behavioral patterns. Furthermore, smaller and younger males resembled the appearance of small females. Consequently, we suggest that long-term color change in males during the breeding season reflects male alternative mating tactics. Upon encounter with a receptive female, males rapidly alter their appearance to that of a specific brief courtship display, which reflects their social status. The females, however, copulated indiscriminately in respect to male color patterns. Thus, we suggest that the differential color patterns displayed by males during the breeding season are largely aimed at inter-male signaling.

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Keren-Rotem, T., Levy, N., Wolf, L., Bouskila, A., & Geffen, E. G. (2016). Alternative mating tactics in male chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) are evident in both long-term body color and short-term courtship pattern. PLoS ONE, 11(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159032

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