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Relationships between chemosensory behaviour and foraging mode within lacertid lizards

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We assess associations between chemosensory capacity and foraging mode within lacertid lizards. Species of Lacertidae differ considerably in indices of foraging mode, and therefore seem well suited to test the adaptive nature of a coupling between foraging and sensory ecology. We observed tongue-flick (TF) rates of members from eight species in the field and in experimental conditions with no prey stimuli, with chemical stimuli, with visual stimuli and with both chemical and visual stimuli. All species increased TF rates in response to both purely visual and purely chemical prey cues, and the increase was most pronounced when both types of stimuli were offered simultaneously. Absolute TF rates in experimental conditions differed considerably among species, and species means obtained in experimental situations correlated closely with those observed in the field. Species that spend a relatively large amount of their time budget actively searching for food tend to use their vomeronasal system more frequently. Although all species in our study retained the capacity of recognizing prey chemicals, our data corroborate the idea of a functional link between an active foraging style and the usage of chemical information.

Affiliations: 1: Laboratory for Functional Morphology, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium


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