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Game Theory in Side-blotched lizards

The given article discusses the process of mating of the side-blotched lizard: a commonly found lizard in Mexico and in the Deserts in the West of America. The lizards have a very peculiar mating strategy: the mating strategy of each male is determined by its throat color, which is either blue, yellow or orange. All 3 of these throat colors have some advantages over each other in this mating process. For example, the Orange-throated males are bigger and more aggressive while the blue ones cooperate with one other a lot a better and yellow ones are known for their ability to sneak because of their markings. Rather surprisingly, once every few years, the dominant variety of the type of male lizard changes and this cycle has persisted for millions of years.

This peculiar phenomena can be explained by evolutionary game theory. The evolutionarily stable strategy, i.e. a genetically determined strategy that tends to persist once it is prevalent in the population is not present in this case. For example, say there are majority of the orange-throated males in the lizard population currently, but a mutation creates some blue throated males instead.¬† Now, the blue throated lizards are less aggressive than their orange counterparts but are fitter, have the ability to co-ordinate and mate with female lizards better than the orange ones. As a result, both the blue and orange throated lizards have their own advantages and neither of the two types of lizards become extinct as there is no evolutionarily stable strategy that would weed out the genetic variation. In this game between 3 players: orange, yellow and blue throated lizards there is no one strategy that dominates over all other strategies and as a result we have a situation which scientists describe as a ‘Rock-Paper-scissors’ game.



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