To protect themselves, some animals rapidly change color when their environments change, but chameleons change colors in unusual ways when they interact with other chameleons. Arizona State University researchers have discovered that these color changes don't happen "out-of-the-blue" — instead, they convey different types of information during important social interactions.
ASU researchers have discovered that color changes in chameleons convey different types of information during important social interactions. The lizards' body stripes and head colorings are particularly important during contests over territory and females.
Credit: Megan Best
For example, when male chameleons challenge each other for territory or a female, their coloring becomes brighter and much more intense. Males that display brighter stripes when they are aggressive are more likely to approach their opponent, and those that achieve brighter head colors are more likely to win fights. Also, how quickly their heads change color is an important predictor of which chameleon will win a skirmish.
The results of the study are published online today in the journal Biology Letters.
Chameleons typically have resting colors that range from brown to green, with hints of yellow, but each chameleon has unique markings. During a contest, the lizards show bright yellows, oranges, greens and turquoises. Interestingly, when the chameleons showed-off their stripes from a distance and followed that display with a "head-on" approach before combat, the important color signals on the striped parts of the body and head were accentuated.
"By using bright color signals and drastically changing their physical appearance, the chameleons' bodies become almost like a billboard — the winner of a fight is often decided before they actually make physical contact," Ligon said. "The winner is the one that causes its opponent to retreat. While sometimes they do engage in physical combat, these contests are very short — five to 15 seconds. More often than not, their color displays end the contest before they even get started."
This is the first study of its kind. The research team took pictures of color standards and estimated the sensitivity of different photoreceptors in their cameras. Then, they used information on the physiology and sensitivity of the photoreceptors of chameleons, and were able to measure the colors actually seen by the lizards. Though this method has previously been used to quantify static (unchanging) coloration, this study is the first to quantify rapid color change while incorporating the visual sensitivities of the animals under study.
There are approximately 160 species of chameleons in the world. Veiled chameleons (Chameleon calyptratus) are native to the Arabian Peninsula – specifically Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They are omnivorous and live essentially solitary lives except when mating. Many chameleons are at great risk, as destruction of their habitats is occurring at alarming rates.
The study was funded by an ASU GPSA grant and by individual sponsors.
The School of Life Sciences is an academic unit of ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Sandra Leander | EurekAlert!
Ruby: Jacobs University scientists are collaborating in the development of a new type of chocolate
18.09.2017 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH
German scientists question study about plastic-eating caterpillars
15.09.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...
Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.
Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
19.09.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.09.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy