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Lizard colour plasticity tracks background seasonal changes

By Daniele Pellitteri-Rosa, Andrea Gazzola, Simone Todisco, Fabio Mastropasqua, Cristiano Liuzzi

Posted 02 Dec 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/862268 (published DOI: 10.1242/bio.052415)

Environmental heterogeneity on spatial and temporal scale fosters organism's capacity to plastically alter coloration. Predation risk might favour the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in colour patterns, as individuals, which change colour throughout the year, could be able to improve their fitness. Here we explored the change in dorsal pigmentation of the Italian wall lizard (Podarcis siculus campestris) along three time points (March, July and October) during the period of activity. Lizard dorsal pictures were collected on the field, with the support of a reference chart to quantitatively estimate chromatic variables (hue, saturation and value, HSV). At the same time, pictures of grassy coverings (the most representative portion of the environment subjected to normal seasonal change), were collected. Our findings show that lizards are capable of altering dorsal coloration during seasonal change. They vary from green, at the onset of spring, to brownish in the middle of summer, and greyish colour in October. This modification closely followed environmental background colour variation and enhanced lizard crypsis during each season.

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