Escape by the Balearic Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi) is affected by elevation of an approaching predator, but not by some other potential predation risk factors

William E. Cooper, Valentín Pérez-Mellado


Many predation risk factors to affect escape behavior by lizards, but effects of some potential risk factors are unknown or are variable among species. We studied effects of several risk factors on escape responses by the Balearic lizard (Podarcis lilfordi, Lacertidae) on escape responses. Escape was elicited by an approaching experimenter who recorded flight initiation distance (predator-prey distance when escape begins) and distance fled. When an experimenter approached from above (upslope), flight initiation distance and distance fled were longer than when the experimenter approached from below. This novel effect suggests that lizards exposed to aerial predation might have been naturally selected to respond rapidly to predators approaching from above or that effects of path inclination of escape ability may differ between predators and prey in a manner requiring a larger margin of safety during approaches from above than below. Although sex differences in aspects of escape occur in some lizards, including lacertids, no sex difference was observed in P. lilfordi. Because vigilance and some other aspects of antipredatory behavior exhibit cortical lateralization, we tested effects of approach from the left and right sides of lizards. As predicted by optimal escape theory, side of approach did not affect flight initiation distance. Because many lizards have color vision and respond to pigmentation of conspecifics in social settings, researchers have often worn only drably colored clothing when simulating predators. This precaution may be unnecessary because flight initiation distance did not differ among investigator shirt colors (red, orange, olive).

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