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Territory establishment in lekking marine iguanas, Amblyrhynchus cristatus: support for the hotshot mechanism


von Haeseler,  Arndt
Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Partecke, J., von Haeseler, A., & Partecke, M. (2002). Territory establishment in lekking marine iguanas, Amblyrhynchus cristatus: support for the hotshot mechanism. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 51(6), 579-587.

The territory establishment of male marine iguanas and their subsequent mating success were analysed to identify spatial spillover (hotshot) and temporal spillover effects on lek formation. Males started to establish small display territories 2 months ahead of the mating season. Males did not establish territories in temporal synchrony and did not settle at sites where the probability of encountering females was highest. However, males arriving later preferentially established their territories in the neighbourhood of already established territories independently of the density of female-sized iguanas in these territories. Although settling in close proximity, there were no fights between those males. The number of fights between territorial males increased towards, and peaked during, the mating season. Fights did not result in the transfer of space, indicating that space per se was no resource. Instead, fights were directed towards central (hotshot) males. These central males had higher mating success than marginal males. Female density during the time of territory establishment did not predict the mating success of males, because females changed their spatial preferences between early establishment and mating periods. Similarly, the areas where males achieved the highest numbers of copulations changed during 4 years of our study. Thus, there was no evidence for temporal spillover between subsequent seasons. However, most male-male interactions served to distract successful males and may lead to spatial spillover of females into territories of unsuccessful males. In marine iguanas, territorial establishment appears largely governed by hotshot processes.