Resolving Tradeoffs Among Crypsis, Escape Behavior, and Microhabitat Use in Sexually Dichromatic Species

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Variation in color pattern between populations of cryptic animals is common and typically attributed to selection pressures from visual predators combined with variation in substrate composition. However, little is known about how cryptic color pattern relates to varied rates of predation, and few studies simultaneously analyze patterns of escape behavior and microhabitat use along with variation in color pattern, even though these traits evolve in tandem. Here, we use a combination of calibrated photographs and spectrometry to examine the influence of spatial heterogeneity in rates of predation on dorsal brightness in the Florida scrub lizard (Sceloporus woodi), a cryptic and sexually dimorphic species. Simultaneously, we analyze patterns of escape behavior and microhabitat use measured in the field. The results of this study indicate that populations inhabiting environments of increased predation have less color variation and more closely match the color of local substrate than populations sampled in environments of relaxed predation. Populations exposed to increased predation also show more pronounced escape behavior and are more selective in their use of microhabitat. Interestingly, geographic variation of dorsal brightness, escape behavior, and microhabitat use were greater for females than for males. Our results not only provide empirical evidence for theories of adaptive coloration, but suggest that sexual dichromatism can be maintained by selection pressures related to predation.


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