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Effects of geographic isolation on anti-snakes responses in the wall lizard, Podarcis muralis

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Alteration in anti-predatory behaviour following geographic isolation has been observed in a number of taxa. Such alteration was attributed to the effect of relaxed selection in the novel environment, reinforced by the cost of anti-predatory behaviours. We studied aspects of anti-snake behaviour in 987 adult and juvenile wall lizards Podarcis muralis from two mainland areas (heavy snake predatory pressure) and two islands (low snake predatory pressure), isolated from the mainland 5000 and 7000 years ago. We conducted a scented retreat site choice experiment using the odours of five different snake species (saurophagous, piscivorous or generalist feeder). Mainland lizards avoided shelters scented by saurophagous snakes, but not those scented by non saurophagous snake species. Long isolated lizards (7000 years ago) showed no anti-predator response to any snake, suggesting a total loss of anti-predatory behaviour towards saurophagous snakes. More recently isolated lizards (5000 years ago) however showed anti-snake behaviour towards a former sympatric adder species, and a tendency to avoid the scent of a sympatric generalist feeder snake. There was no difference in the anti-snake responses between adult and juvenile wall lizards from all four sites, suggesting a limited role for experience (behavioural plasticity) in the expression of anti-snake behaviour in wall lizards.

Affiliations: 1: 1Station d’Ecologie Expérimentale de Moulis, CNRS, 09200 Saint Girons, France; 2: 2Médecine néonatale, CHU de Nantes, 44093 Nantes, France; 3: 3UMR 7179 MNHN/CNRS Département Ecologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 91800 Brunoy, France

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2012-01-02
2016-12-08

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