Shouting the odds: Vocalization signals status in a lizard

Toby J. Hibbitts*, Martin J. Whiting, Devi M. Stuart-Fox

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Many species possess multiple sexually dimorphic traits, which incorporate different sensory modalities (e.g., acoustic, olfactory and visual), although their relative roles in sexual selection and in determining reproductive success are still poorly understood for most taxa. We assessed the role of multiple male traits, including one acoustic (dominant call frequency) and one visual (yellow throat patch) trait, in residency advertisement, contest behavior, and breeding success in barking geckos (Ptenopus garrulus garrulus). We show that male barking geckos maintain largely exclusive home ranges, with a trend for larger males to maintain larger home ranges. We also show that larger males have a lower dominant calling frequency. When aggressive behavior was elicited in the field using a recorded call of average frequency, resident males with low frequency calls were more likely to respond aggressively and charge the speaker compared to males with high frequency calls. However, body size and small relative throat patch size, rather than call frequency, were the best predictors of overall aggressiveness. Body size was also the best predictor of whether males bred. We suggest that call frequency in this crepuscular species constitutes an effective long-range signal of body size, used by males for remote rival assessment and to advertise home range boundaries in low-light environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1169-1176
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


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