(Phys.org) —Two researchers from Arizona State University have found that male chameleons use their color changing abilities for far more than hiding from predators. In their paper published in the journal Royal Society Biology Letters, Russell Ligon and Kevin McGraw describe a study they conducted with captive chameleons that showed that male veiled chameleons use their colors to intimidate other males and that head coloring can predict who might win in a scuffle. Veiled chameleons (Chameleon calyptratus) are native to the Arabian Peninsula — specifically Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Credit: Russell Ligon Explore further When male chameleons challenge each other for territory or a female, their coloring becomes brighter and more intense. During a contest, the lizards show bright yellows, oranges, greens and turquoises. Credit: Russell Ligon Citation: Study shows male chameleons fighting prowess tied to color changing abilities (2013, December 11) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-12-male-chameleons-prowess-tied-abilities.html More information: Chameleons communicate with complex colour changes during contests: different body regions convey different information, Published 11 December 2013 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0892AbstractMany animals display static coloration (e.g. of feathers or fur) that can serve as a reliable sexual or social signal, but the communication function of rapidly changing colours (as in chameleons and cephalopods) is poorly understood. We used recently developed photographic and mathematical modelling tools to examine how rapid colour changes of veiled chameleons Chamaeleo calyptratus predict aggressive behaviour during male–male competitions. Males that achieved brighter stripe coloration were more likely to approach their opponent, and those that attained brighter head coloration were more likely to win fights; speed of head colour change was also an important predictor of contest outcome. This correlative study represents the first quantification of rapid colour change using organism-specific visual models and provides evidence that the rate of colour change, in addition to maximum display coloration, can be an important component of communication. Interestingly, the body and head locations of the relevant colour signals map onto the behavioural displays given during specific contest stages, with lateral displays from a distance followed by directed, head-on approaches prior to combat, suggesting that different colour change signals may evolve to communicate different information (motivation and fighting ability, respectively).Press release The researchers can’t explain why better or faster head coloring makes for better fighters, but suggest it might indicate higher hormone levels, or perhaps be a simple indicator of a stronger or healthier chameleon.