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A test of optimal foraging and the effects of predator experience in the lizards Sceloporus jarrovii and Sceloporus virgatus

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Foraging efficiency of predators can be evaluated by using optimality or profitability models which incorporate prey choice, handling time and pursuit or search time. Optimality of a diet could vary based on the age, sex, size, predation risk, or foraging experience of the predator. This study tested the effects of a predator's age and foraging experience by observing prey capture attempts and success rate, and by calculating diet profitability for adult and neonate Sceloporus jarrovii and adult Sceloporus virgatus. Prey availability was assessed in order to determine prey preference and profitability. Neonates showed an increased number of prey capture attempts, but success rate was similar for neonates and adults of both species. Total diet profitability of neonates was lower than adults of either species, which could be a result of poor prey choice or gape limitation (although body size showed no direct effect). Overall, the diets of all three groups were less profitable than would be expected based on the types of prey in the environment, although this is likely due to low availability (from the lizard's perspective) of highly profitable items. Lizards seem to be eating prey items in the same proportion as they are found in the environment.

Affiliations: 1: Zoology Department, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA


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