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"Scan" behaviour in Podarcis muralis: the use of vantage points by an actively foraging lizard

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Two adult Podarcis muralis whose normal movements incorporated the flat top of a wall, frequently paused so that they were looking outwards from an edge ("scan" posture), especially during longer (≥9 s) periods immobile. Investigations of the posture on raised wooden platforms in outdoor enclosures, using two juvenile lizards, showed that (1) lizards spent significantly more time on platforms than would be expected from random movement, and this was not because wood is a favoured substrate for basking; (2) lizards which were immobile on platforms spent significantly more time at edges than would be expected by chance; (3) body orientations at 67.5-112.5° to the edge were the most frequent and these were maintained for significantly longer periods than the remaining orientations; exceptions were from 0800-0900 h when orientation was often parallel to the edge facing the sun and from 1200-1300 h with only a thin strip of shade at 45°, into which the lizards fitted themselves. Lizards basking in the laboratory beneath a tungsten bulb at the edge of a raised platform adopted outward-facing orientations when the platform height was ≥6 mm. When presented with a choice between basking more effectively (i.e. rapid heating rate) or adopting the "scan" posture at an edge with a lower heating rate or with no heating, they opted for the former. Podarcis sicula, P. filfolensis, Lacerta viridis and L. vivipara all showed an excess of outward-facing orientations when the basking bulbs were place near edges of platforms, but Psammodromus hispanicus did not. Only the two Podarcis species, however, spent more time on raised platforms than would be expected by chance when basking was possible at many sites in an arena.

Affiliations: 1: Zoology Department, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1 UG, UK; 2: Museo di Storia Naturale, Sezione di Zoologia "la Specola", Università di Firenze, 50125 Italy


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