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Bite-force performance and head shape in a sexually dimorphic crevice-dwelling lizard, the common chuckwalla [Sauromalus ater (= obesus)]

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The Common Chuckwalla [Sauromalus ater (= obesus)] is a large, sexually dimorphic lizard with a flattened head that takes refuge from predators in rock crevices. Males use their relatively large heads to bite competing males during territorial fights and to restrain females during copulation. Flattened heads with an antipredator function (i.e. seeking refuge in crevices) and enlarged heads with intrasexual competition and reproductive functions suggest possible antagonism between selective pressures on head morphology in males. To examine this hypothesis, we performed a morphometric analysis and measured the bite-force performance of 49 adult chuckwallas. Males had disproportionately wider heads than females, but did not have deeper heads. Males bit with nearly four times the force of females, consistent with the notion of sexual selection for high bite force in males. Although constrained by crevice-wedging behaviour, head depth was a good predictor of bite force in both sexes. In males, however, osteological head width also was a good predictor of bite force. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that head shape in males is under antagonistic selective pressures, which may partly explain the pattern of head shape dimorphism. The disproportionately wide head of males may reflect anatomical modifications to enhance bite force in response to sexual selection in spite of presumed constraints on head shape for crevice-wedging behaviour © 2006 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2006, 88, 215–222.
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Keywords: antagonistic selection; bite force; crevice-dwelling; sexual dimorphism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4601, USA 2: Department of Integrated Natural Sciences, Arizona State University at the West Campus, Phoenix, AZ 85069-7100, USA

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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