Reptilian coloration and behavior
Cooper, W.E., Jr. and N. Greenberg
A. General Significance of Coloration to Behavior
The coloration and color patterns of animals strongly y influence numerous
aspects of their behavior, especially social behavior, predatory and antipredatory
behavior, and maintenance, including thermoregulation. Because the potentially
optimal coloration may differ for each of several roles and may vary in time and
space, the resultant coloration may in many cases best be viewed as an adaptive
compromise between conflicting selective pressures exerted by social, predatory,
antipredatory, thermoregulatory, and perhaps other demands. fiowever, such
compromises are more often mentioned than documented experimentally.
An example of compromise is seen in the bright display colors of many iguanid,
lacertid, and teiid lizards. Many of these colors are located ventrally or
ventrolateraly and may be revealed by display postures for social communication,
but at other times remain concealed, thus reducing risk of predation (Endler,
1980). Similarly, the bright dewlap coloration of anoles is hidden except when it
is revealed during brief behavioral displays. Presumably, predation pressure
selects for phasic rather than tonic, continually visible, displays of color.
Furthermore, some predators are cryptic to avoid detection by their prey.
Alternatively, the efficiency of communication may be enhanced by restricting
visibility of chromatic signals except in their specific functional contexts. Being
subject to diverse selective pressures, coloration may reflect underlying
homeostatic dynamics of multiple physiological systems. Finally, body color, like
behavior, is an external manifestation of the internal state of the animal and is
arrayed on a continuum of temporal stability from obligate morphological and
developmental states to states responding rapidly to short-term environmental
SREL Reprint #1814
Cooper, W.E., Jr. and N. Greenberg. 1992. Reptilian coloration and behavior.
In Biology of the Reptilia, edited by C. Gans and D. Crews. p. 298-422. Vol.
Volume 18, Physiology E. Hormones, Brain, and Behavior, edited by C. Gans.
University of Chicago Press. Chicago, IL. (Reprints are not available for
distribution at SREL. Book can be purchased from The University of Chicago
Press, 5801 Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637-1496).
To request a reprint