These Lizards Have Been Playing an Epic Game of Rock-Paper-Scissors For 15 Million Years
To male side-blotched lizards, playing ro sham bo with their orange-, yellow- or blue-colored throats is more than just an innocent game. These colors represent mating behaviors, with each color fairing better against one color and worse against another.
Orange lizards are the jocks – aggressive to all colors and protective of a harem of females. Orange lizards beat blue lizards, who each focus their attention on one female. The blue lizards’ vigilance protects against yellow lizards, who sneak about stealing other males’ mates, which makes them effective against the orange lizards’ thinner defenses.
Researchers believe that this game has been going on for at least 15 million years, aided by females who keep each population healthy by generally favoring the rarest of the colors.
Fascinatingly, this isn’t the only lizard species that uses color as a mating tool. Check out how chameleons use their color-changing abilities to attract a mate.