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Body size, male combat and the evolution of sexual dimorphism in eublepharid geckos (Squamata: Eublepharidae)

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Lizards of the family Eublepharidae exhibit interspecific diversity in body size, sexual size dimorphism (SSD), head size dimorphism (HSD), occurrence of male combat, and presence of male precloacal pores. Hence, they offer an opportunity for testing hypotheses for the evolution and maintenance of sexual dimorphism. Historical analysis of male agonistic behaviour indicates that territoriality is ancestral in eublepharid geckos. Within Eublepharidae, male combat disappeared twice. In keeping with predictions from sexual selection theory, both events were associated with parallel loss of male-biased HSD and ventral scent glands. Eublepharids therefore provide new evidence that male-biased dimorphic heads are weapons used in aggressive encounters and that the ventral glands probably function in territory marking rather than in intersexual communication. Male-biased SSD is a plesiomorphic characteristic and was affected by at least three inversions. Shifts in SSD and male combat were not historically correlated. Therefore, other factors than male rivalry appear responsible for SSD inversions. Eublepharids demonstrate the full scope of Rensch’s rule (small species tend to be female-larger, larger species male-larger). Most plausibly, SSD pattern hence seems to reflect body size variation. © 2002 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2002, 76, 303–314.

Keywords: Eublepharis; aggression; epidermal glands; head size; sexual selection; size dimorphism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Zoology, Charles University, Viničná 7, CZ-128 44 Praha 2, Czech Republic

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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