Evolving from static to dynamic signals: Evolutionary compensation between two communicative signals

Emília P. Martins, Alison G. Ossip-Klein, J. Jaime Zúñiga-Vega, Cuauhcihuatl Vital García, Stephanie M. Campos, Diana K. Hews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Signals that convey related information may impose selection on each other, creating evolutionary links between different components of the communicative repertoire. Here, we ask about the consequences of the evolutionary loss of one signal (a colour patch) on another (a motion display) in Sceloporus lizards. We present data on male lizards of four species: two pairs of sister taxa representing two independent evolutionary losses of the static colour patch (. Sceloporus cozumelae and Sceloporus parvus; Sceloporus siniferus and Sceloporus merriami). Males of the two species that have undergone an evolutionary loss of blue-belly patches (. S.cozumelae, S.siniferus) were less active than their blue-bellied sister taxa (. S.parvus, S.merriami), consistent with the suggestion that the belly patches were lost to reduce conspicuousness of species with high predation pressure. In contrast, the headbob display appears to have become more, rather than less, conspicuous over evolutionary time. The colour patch is exhibited primarily during aggressive encounters, whereas headbob displays are multifunction signals used in several different contexts, including aggressive encounters. Males of species that have lost the colour patch produced more motion displays, and the structure of those motion displays were more similar to those produced during combat. In both evolutionary episodes, a static colour signal appears to have been replaced by dynamic motion displays that can be turned off in the presence of predators and other unwanted receivers. The predominant pattern is one of evolutionary compensation and interactions between multiple signals that convey related information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-229
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Communicative display
  • Conspicuous visual signal
  • Dynamic signal
  • Evolutionary compensation
  • Multimodal signal
  • Sceloporus
  • Static signal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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