Morph-specific metabolic rate and the timing of reproductive senescence in a color polymorphic dragon
Polymorphism has fascinated biologists for over a century because morphs persist within populations through evolutionary time in spite of showing disparate behavioral and physiological phenotypes; any one morph should go to fixation with the slightest fitness advantage over the others. Surely there must be trade-offs that balance selection on them. The polychromatic morphs of the Australian painted dragon lizard, Ctenophorus pictus, are one such system. The male color morphs of painted dragons have different physiological and behavioral traits including reproductive tactics, hormone levels, and the rate of body condition loss through the reproductive season. Due to their differences in physiology and reproductive tactics, we tested the hypotheses that male morphs would differ in resting metabolic rates (RMRs) and that the morphs' RMR would decline at different rates through the mating season. We found that bib-morphs (yellow gular patch) differ in RMR with bibbed (more aggressive) males having consistently higher RMR than non-bibbed males. Furthermore, we show that male dragons experience a decline in RMR as they age from reproductively active to inactive. We also found that the RMR of bibbed males has higher repeatability than non-bibbed males. Our results reinforce previous hypotheses about the morph-specific costs of bearing a gular patch in painted dragons.