Agonism does not covary with territoriality in a gregarious reptile


Natural selection for territoriality is theorised to occur under conditions favouring intra-sexual phenotypic variation in physiology, morphology, and behaviour. In this context, certain suites of behavioural traits associated with territoriality are expected to consistently covary among individuals (sometimes referred to as ‘behavioural syndromes’) within sexes. Agonism (conflict-associated behaviours that may or may not be associated with physical aggression) and movement—for example, ranging, or relocation within or across seasons—are two behavioural components that are associated with territoriality and may be expected to covary in this context. Territorial males are expected to employ agonistic behaviours to actively establish and defend areas and resources and show more stability in their location across the landscape. However, the interaction between agonism and movement especially for wild reptiles has rarely been tested. We investigated whether agonistic and movement behaviours correlate at the individual level both within one year and across multiple years, in a wild population of Australian eastern water dragons, Intellagama lesueurii. Although both types of behaviours exhibited among-individual repeatability over year and multi-year scales, we found no evidence of an agonistic-movement behavioural syndrome. These findings indicate that agonistic and movement behaviours are likely independent traits, and thus, territoriality may not drive shared selective pressures for both. It is possible that other social behaviours and strategies are in place to maintain social structure in this wild population.

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 77(6) 73
Barbara Class
Barbara Class

I am a researcher interested in among-individual differences in wild vertebrate populations.