If you take a close look at male side-blotched lizards, you'll notice a distinct difference in individuals. Some throats that are mostly orange colored, some are mostly yellow and some are mostly blue. If you take an even closer look at the lizards' behavior, you'll see that these colors also represent distinct differences in their approach to finding mates.

KQED Science reports on the UC Santa Cruz researchers who figured out that these colors are an indicator of a 15-million-year-old game of rock-paper-scissors among the lizards. From KQED:

It’s all about territories. Orange males tend to be the biggest and most aggressive. They hold large territories with several females each and are able to oust the somewhat smaller and less aggressive blues. Blue males typically hold smaller territories and are more monogamous, each focusing his interest on a single female. Yellow males tend not to even form exclusive territories. Instead they use stealth to find unaccompanied females with whom to mate.

The thing is, no strategy is more efficient than any other, and each type of male beats out another in the trio in some way. The fascinating video explains who beats who, and how the balance is kept in check so that yellow, orange and blue males continue to persist despite their very different approaches to finding mates.

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.