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Identifying potential cues of species identity in complex animal signals

Cite this dataset

Ord, Terry; Nelson, Claire (2022). Identifying potential cues of species identity in complex animal signals [Dataset]. Dryad.


Communication signals are often key for encoding information on species identity, but determining the features important in conveying those cues is challenging. This is especially the case when attempting to compare across closely related sympatric taxa, where the need for accurate species recognition is critical. We developed an analytical framework to comprehensively quantify the complex movement displays used by male lizards to advertise territory ownership in 11 taxa of Puerto Rican Anolis, many of which were sympatric. Our analyses were able to assign the majority of individuals to the correct population of a given species based on only a handful of displays, showing ample information exists in these displays for species recognition. Instances where lizards were misassigned appeared to have occurred because of similarities in display design resulting from local adaptation to similar environments or recent shared evolutionary history. Our analyses also revealed there was no common (‘magic’) display characteristic for recognition across the 11 taxa. Instead, lizards likely assess the entire display or a combination of different display cues. Taken together, we illustrate a powerful approach that offers a rigorous statistical and holistic evaluation of complex animal signals for elucidating features likely to be important in species recognition. We provide a guide for implementing this analytical framework in R, with associated code and worked examples. Information obtained from these analyses can then be used to design experiments testing the utility of identifying cues or comparative studies investigating how those cues contribute to reproductive isolation among populations and ultimately speciation.


Details on methods, data collection and processing are given in full in the published paper associated with this data set.

Usage notes

Information on data format is provided in the README text file.