Ecology and sexual selection of the common barking gecko (ptenopus garrulus)

Hibbitts, Toby Jarrell
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I investigated three mechanisms (endurance rivalry, contest competition, and mate choice) of sexual selection and the influence of multiple signals on intrasexual and intersexual encounters in the common barking gecko (Ptenopus garrulus). Aspects of the ecology of barking geckos were also studied to facilitate the investigation of sexual selection. Barking geckos exhibited sexual size dimorphism in relation to head size, with males having wider heads. No differences in diet or size of prey ingested were observed between the sexes, indicating that niche divergence was not occurring. Therefore, the difference in head width was best explained by sexual selection (male contest competition). Barking gecko diet was dominated by termites by number and volume. The peak reproductive season was in October for both sexes. I used activity patterns to determine if males emerged before females from winter dormancy, a key assumption of the protandry-based mating system model. Activity patterns were significantly different between males and females. Males were active in higher numbers early in the breeding season. Male and female activity patterns along with evidence that male territories were established before female emergence, testicular recrudescence likely coincides with male emergence, and larger males have larger territories and better reproductive success, suggest that barking geckos have a protandry-based polygynous mating system. I also tested for clustering of geckos on the landscape to determine if barking geckos lek. Clustering was found to occur in some instances, but barking geckos did not iii meet the criteria for a ‘classical’ lek species because males use calling sites containing resources (a burrow) that are also used by females. Lizards frequently rely on chemical cues to detect the presence of a conspecific. Male lizards in particular, may chemically sample potential refuges to avoid rivals. Barking geckos were equally likely to use an artificial refuge scented by another male compared to a control, indicating that males do not use scent when selecting refuges. I assessed the role of two signals, one acoustic (dominant call frequency) and one visual (yellow throat patch), in advertising residency and aggressive behavior in barking geckos. Larger males defended the largest home ranges and home ranges were maintained through calling, which is negatively correlated with body size. Body size also predicted some behavioural responses to field-playback trials. Small males retreated from the playback and large males were found to be aggressive towards the playback. Small relative throat patch size was also correlated with aggression and charging the playback. Finally, call frequency was correlated with the behaviour of charging the playback. I suggest that the frequencies of barking gecko calls constitute a long-range signal of body size, used by males for remote rival assessment and to advertise home range boundaries. I also assessed the role of multiple signals (acoustic and visual) in reproductive success and I studied the effect of one mechanism of sexual selection, endurance iv rivalry, on reproductive success. Activity levels were similar for males which bred compared to those that did not breed, suggesting that endurance rivalry is not a significant mechanism of sexual selection in this population. Body size was the best predictor of reproductive success, suggesting that call frequency functions as a long range signal of body size used by females to assess potential mates.
Faculty of Science School of Animal,Plant and Enviromental Studies 0204322k
Lizard, Reptile, Spce usage, Diet, Pheromone