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Rock-Paper-Scissors Lizards

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Biologists from UC Santa Cruz are studying the three distinct mating strategies of what’s being referred to as “rock-paper-scissors lizards,” the blue, orange, and yellow variations of the Western side-blotched lizard. This 4K video from Deep Look explains the evolutionary and mathematical balance:

It’s all about territories. Orange males tend to be the biggest and most aggressive. They hold large territories with several females each and are able to oust the somewhat smaller and less aggressive blues. Blue males typically hold smaller territories and more monogamous, each focusing his interest on a single female. Yellow males tend not to even form exclusive territories Instead they use stealth to find unaccompanied females with whom to mate.

The yellow males are particularly successful with females that live in territories held by their more aggressive orange competitors. Because the orange males spread their attention among several females, they aren’t able to guard each individual female against intruding yellow males. But the more monogamous blues males are more vigilant and chase sneaky yellow males away.


Read more at KQED.

Related watching: Why Warm Blood is Better Than Cold. Also on this site: More reptiles, more lizards, and more episodes of Deep Look.

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