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Averted predator gaze reduces latency to flee by zebra-tailed lizards ( Callisaurus draconoides)

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Directness of a predator’s gaze affects several aspects of antipredatory behavior, including flight initiation distance (FID = predator-prey distance when fleeing begins), which is longer under direct than averted gaze. However, the effect of gaze directness on probability of fleeing or latency to flee (LF) in a short interval when a prey is immobile near an immobile predator is unknown. We predicted that probability of fleeing is greater and LF is shorter if the predator’s gaze is averted than direct. If the predator has not detected the prey, it will detect it immediately and attack when the prey moves while under direct gaze. Therefore, the prey is less likely to flee than if the predator is looking elsewhere. Under direct gaze the cost of fleeing decreases over time because the predator is increasingly likely to detect the prey. Under averted gaze, risk of being detected is constant for immobile prey and increases if the prey flees. Cost of fleeing under averted gaze is therefore constant and lower if the prey flees than under direct gaze at short latency, predicting shorter LF and greater likelihood of fleeing within a short fixed interval. We test this novel prediction of a model of the effect of gaze directness using the zebra-tailed lizard, Callisaurus draconoides. The proportion of lizards that fled was three times greater for averted than direct gaze, suggesting that prey under scrutiny reduce movement to avoid being detected. We discuss effects of gaze on FID, LF and probability of fleeing.

Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Biology, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN 46805, USA; 2: 2Southwestern Research Station, American Museum of Natural History, Portal, Arizona, AZ 85632, USA


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