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Escape tactic plasticity of two sympatric Norops (Beta Anolis) species in Northeast Costa Rica

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Optimal Escape Theory (OET) has been used extensively to predict escape responses of lizards facing predation, yet few studies have examined the responses of two species that share the same habitat, even though such lizards may exhibit distinct patterns of spatial habitat use and behaviour. Furthermore, while OET may predict when escape behaviour should occur, it does not account for any variation in tactics used. Here, the escape behaviour of sympatric Norops humilis and N. limifrons lizards were studied. Lizard microhabitats were categorized and approach speeds were randomised such that each lizard was approached at one of two speeds, slow or fast. Approach speed of a simulated predator had no significant effect on approach distances for either species. Ambient and surface temperatures varied throughout the study period, yet had no significant effect on the escape responses of either species. Species differences in escape tactics correlated with microhabitat: Norops humilis were found more often on small shrubs and typically escaped by jumping to adjacent shrub branches or leaves. Norops limifrons, on the other hand, were typically found on tree trunks and thicker stems, and used squirrelling (horizontal movement around a trunk, branch, or stem) as a primary escape tactic. Additionally, all lizards encountered at ground-level ran. These results thus illustrate the variety of escape tactics used by sympatric N. humilis and N. limifrons within their structurally diverse habitat.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019, USA


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