Furcifer labordi is known as the world’s shortest-lived chameleon. Within three months, these animals grow from hatchling to adult chameleons, mate, lay eggs and mostly die immediately afterwards. Scientists at the University of Göttingen researched whether the short lifespan has an influence on the mating strategy of Furcifer labordi.
The study site was the dry forest of Kirindy in western Madagascar. Kirindy is located about 60 km north of the coastal town of Morondava and about 20 km from the sea in the Menabe region. During the rainy season in early 2020, 39 Furcifer labordi of both sexes were fitted with radio transmitters there. Weight and body length at the time of discovery as well as some other values were measured, and the sleeping height of the animals found at night was noted. The animals were released at the site where they were found. The researchers then tracked the chameleons twice during the day and once at night for several weeks using telemetry to record GPS data and establish movement and behaviour patterns.
The results of the study show that female Furcifer labordi in Kirindy are very site-faithful. They only cover short distances. In contrast, male Furcifer labordi move much more and over longer distances, so that seven to fourteen times more males than females could be observed in a forest section. The observed females mated with up to six different males – however, the researchers repeatedly found unmarked males among the observed females. This suggests that Furcifer labordi could actually have a significantly higher number of different reproductive partners. The individually very different body sizes of the males as well as differently pronounced nasal processes had no connection to movement patterns. Furthermore, it could be shown that Furcifer labordi does not occupy and defend territories. This means that presumably the short lifespan actually leads to competition for the few available females being more intense – and as observations show also more aggressive – than in other chameleon species. This study is the first investigation of the mating system of a Malagasy chameleon.
Sex-specific movement ecology of the shortest-lived tetrapod during the mating season
Lennart Hudel & Peter M. Kappeler