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Predation risk, escape and refuge use by mountain spiny lizards (Sceloporus jarrovii)

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Economic theories of antipredatory behavior take into account expected fitness losses and gains to predict escape decisions. Prey at greater risk are predicted to have longer flight initiation distance (= distance from predator when escape begins), flee farther, be more likely to enter refuge, and have longer hiding time (= time between entering and exiting refuge). We simulated predators to study effects of risk factors in the lizard Sceloporus jarrovii. Flight initiation distance, distance fled and probability of entering refuge increased with approach speed. Flight initiation distance increased additively with increases in speed and directness of approach. Lizards habituated to human presence had shorter flight initiation distances than unhabituated lizards. As predicted from greater threat posed by a persistent predator, flight initiation distance and hiding time were longer after the second of two approaches. Fleeing was more likely when an investigator stood nearby and turned toward them than when farther way or turned away. These findings verify theoretical predictions of escape and refuge use for several risk factors and most are consistent with those for other lizards. However, speed and directness of approach had additive effects in S. jarrovii, but interacted in other species. Another novel finding was a small interaction between individual investigator and directness of approach. Although outcomes of tests of escape and refuge use theories consistently confirm qualitative predictions, quantitative comparisons between studies by different investigators may have limited value unless information is available about relative responses by prey to each investigator.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805, USA;, Email:; 2: Department of Biology, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805, USA


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