When to be neighbourly: Differential agonistic responses in the lizard Platysaurus broadleyi

Martin J. Whiting*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Differential treatment of neighbours and strangers (the dear enemy phenomenon) can reduce the costly effects of territory defence. Individual recognition, and by extension the dear enemy phenomenon, was examined in the cordylid lizard Platysaurus broadleyi. I had no knowledge of familiarity between individuals and therefore classed intruders as neighbours or non-neighbours and tested for differences in agonistic response consistent with the dear enemy phenomenon. In the dear enemy phenomenon, levels of aggression are inversely related to degree of familiarity such that residents are more tolerant of immediate neighbours than distant territory holders. A manipulative field experiment in conjunction with field observations of known territory holders revealed that resident males allowed neighbours to approach more closely than non-neighbours before challenging them, residents were more aggressive towards non-neighbours than neighbours, contests between neighbours were significantly longer than between neighbours and non-neighbours and contests between residents and non-neighbours were likely to result in a win for the resident, while neighbours frequently drew contests. These results suggest a level of recognition consistent with the dear enemy phenomenon. I also manipulated front leg colour to test the hypothesis that it alone could serve as a cue for individual recognition. I found no support for this hypothesis and suggest that multiple cues operate in individual recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-214
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Dear enemy phenomenon
  • Platysaurus broadleyi
  • Rival recognition
  • Territoriality


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