Adaptive significance of affiliative behaviour differs between sexes in a wild reptile population


In recent years, we have begun to appreciate that social behaviours might exhibit repeatable among-individual variation. Such behavioural traits may even covary and have critical evolutionary implications. Importantly, some social behaviours such as aggressiveness have been shown to provide fitness benefits, including higher reproductive success and survival. However, fitness consequences of affiliative behaviours, especially between or among sexes, can be more challenging to establish. Using a longitudinal behavioural dataset (2014–2021) collected on eastern water dragons (Intellagama lesueurii), we investigated whether various aspects of affiliative behaviour (i) were repeatable across years, (ii) covaried with each other at the among-individual level, and (iii) influenced individuals’ fitness. In particular, we considered affiliative behaviours towards opposite-sex and same-sex conspecifics separately. We found that social traits were repeatable and covaried with each other similarly for both sexes. More notably, we found that male reproductive success was positively correlated with the number of female associates and the proportion of time spent with females, while females’ reproductive success was not correlated with any of the measured social behaviour metrics. Overall, these findings suggest that selection may be acting differently on social behaviour of male and female eastern water dragons.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 290(2001) 20230805
Barbara Class
Barbara Class

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