Digit ratio, polychromatism and associations with endurance and antipredator behaviour in male painted dragon lizards
Variation in sex hormone exposure during early embryonic development contributes to individual differences in behaviour and cognitive abilities later in life. Digit ratio has gained considerable interest as a putative marker for early androgen/oestrogen exposure in behavioural ecology research. Studying digit ratio in nonhuman laboratory as well as wild vertebrate species may be useful to assess whether different traits may be influenced by a common (e.g. endocrine-related) mechanism and whether digit ratio might be used as a phenotypic indicator for behavioural or fitness-related traits. We examined whether digit ratio (third-to-fourth toe ratio; 3D:4D) may indicate a common mechanism underlying endurance and antipredator behaviour in male painted dragon lizards, Ctenophorus pictus. We have previously shown that 3D:4D is associated with the presence/absence of a yellow throat patch (bib), with males with bibs having higher 3D:4D than those without bibs. In this study we found that 3D:4D predicted antipredator behaviour with individuals with higher 3D:4D having shorter escape response times; however, 3D:4D was not associated with endurance. Endurance and antipredator behaviour were also associated with male coloration. Males expressing a bib had shorter escape response times and lower endurance than those without a bib. Moreover, males with orange head colour had lower endurance compared to yellow-headed and uncoloured males. On the basis of these results, we speculate that the associations between antipredator behaviour, endurance, 3D:4D and male sexual coloration are caused, at least partly, by different underlying mechanisms.