School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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Which tree lizard morph would you like to be?

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  • Territory: an area defended and owned by an individual.

Michael Moore and researchers at the laboratory study two male tree lizard morphs: the aggressive orange-blue morph, and the more mild-mannered orange morph.

Orange-blue males use lots of energy defending their territories. The territories are valuable because they supply bugs to eat, rocks in the sun, hiding places, and female lizards. Males need all of these things to survive and reproduce. An orange-blue male guards his territory from the top of a tall rock, looking around for other lizards. If he sees an orange male, he runs over and threatens to start a fight. He flashes his bright dewlap and blue belly, and does pushups. If the trespassing orange male does not leave, the territorial male may bite him!

tree
 lizard morphs

Orange males usually don't have territories. Instead, they hang around at the edges of other males' territories. When no one is looking, an orange male may take a chance and sneak onto the property. He hopes that no orange-blue lizards will catch him. He secretly suns himself on a rock, and eats a few ants that are crawling nearby. But if an aggressive orange-blue lizard finds him, the orange male has to be ready to run away fast, or put up a fight! Most of the time, the orange male just runs for it.

Tree Lizard Cartoon

Fight or flight is the question for these lizards.

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Tree Lizard Cartoon

Fight or flight is the question for these lizards.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.