nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

Lizards and rock-paper-scissors

biology gets complicated

An unusual game is being played out in the Coast Range of California. Three alternative male strategies are locked in an ecological "perpetual motion machine" from which there appears little escape. As in the rock-paper-scissors game where rock beats scissors, paper beats rock, and scissors beats paper, three morphs of lizards cycle from the ultra-dominant polygynous orange-throated males, which best the more monogamous mate gaurding blues; the oranges are in turn bested by the sneaker strategy of yellow-throated males, and the sneaker strategy of yellows is in turn bested by the mate guarding strategy of blue-throated males. Each strategy in this game has a strength and a weakness, and there is the evolutionary rub that keeps the wheels spinning.

The description seems to view the cycle as a problem ("little escape"), but I can't see that it's inferior to species with a stable male strategy. The most obvious thing that could destabilize it would be oranges developing the ability to identify yellows as males.
Tags: biology

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