Locomotor performance and social dominance in male Anolis cristatellus

Gad Perry, Kate Levering, Isabelle Girard, Theodore Garland

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186 Scopus citations


The proximal mechanisms determining social dominance are not well understood. We used the highly territorial lizard A. cristatellus to test two main hypotheses: (1) that male social dominance is associated with locomotor abilities; (2) that locomotor abilities (maximal performance), as measured in the laboratory, are correlated with behaviour in the field. In the field, we recorded locomotor behaviours and assertion displays, then characterized microhabitat use and thermal relations. In the laboratory, we measured maximum sprint running speed, endurance and morphometric characters, and assessed dominance by pairing males of similar body size in an experimental arena. In 72 of 77 interactions, one lizard (the 'winner') was unequivocally determined to be dominant over the other (the 'loser'). Winners performed more assertion displays than losers before capture and also had higher endurance in laboratory tests. Although contestants were matched for snout-vent length, winners had significantly deeper and wider heads. However, we found no significant differences in field locomotor behaviours, perch or thermal characteristics, head length, or maximal sprint speed. Our findings support those of previous studies, and extend them in several ways. This is the first demonstration that assertion displays in the field are related to both locomotor performance and laboratory-assessed social dominance. Locomotor performance may directly affect social dominance by allowing some males to perform better in dyadic interactions. Alternatively, both locomotor performance and social dominance may be linked to a common underlying mechanism, such as variation in hormone levels, which are known to affect aggression, locomotor performance and morphology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-47
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


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