Predation usually selects for visual crypsis, the colour matching between an animal and its background. Geographic co-variation between animal and background colourations is well known, but how crypsis varies along elevational gradients remains unknown. We predict that dorsal colouration in the lizard Psammodromus algirus
should covary with the colour of bare soil—where this lizard is mainly found—along a 2200 m elevational gradient in Sierra Nevada (SE Spain). Moreover, we predict that crypsis should decrease with elevation for two reasons: (1) Predation pressure typically decreases with elevation, and (2) at high elevation, dorsal colouration is under conflicting selection for both crypsis and thermoregulation. By means of standardised photographies of the substratum and colourimetric measurements of lizard dorsal skin, we tested the colour matching between lizard dorsum and background. We found that, along the gradient, lizard dorsal colouration covaried with the colouration of bare soil, but not with other background elements where the lizard is rarely detected. Moreover, supporting our prediction, the degree of crypsis against bare soil decreased with elevation. Hence, our findings suggest local adaptation for crypsis in this lizard along an elevational gradient, but this local adaptation would be hindered at high elevations.
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