Predation Risk and Opportunity Cost of Fleeing While Foraging on Plants Influence Escape Decisions of an Insular Lizard



Ana Pérez-Cembranos, Department of Animal Biology, University of Salamanca, Facultad de Farmacia, 5ª planta, Campus Unamuno, CP 37007, Salamanca, Spain.



Cost-benefit models of escape behaviour predict how close a prey allows a predator to approach [flight initiation distance (FID)] based on cost of not fleeing (predation risk) and cost of fleeing (loss of opportunities). Models for FID have been used with some success to predict distance fled (DF). We studied effects of foraging opportunity cost of fleeing and examined differences between age-sex groups in the omnivorous Balearic Lizard, Podarcis lilfordi. Balearic lizards forage on the ground for invertebrate prey and climb the thistle Carlina corymbosa to forage on its inflorescences. We studied escape behaviour in three experimental groups, with human beings as simulated predators: lizard foraging above ground on C. corymbosa, foraging on the ground away from thistles and on the ground with cut inflorescences. Flight initiation distance was shorter for lizards with cut inflorescences than for (1) lizards above ground due to the greater risk above ground due to conspicuousness of black lizards on yellow flowers; and (2) lizards on ground away from flowers due to the cost of leaving while feeding. The only age-sex difference was slightly greater FID for adult males than subadults, presumably because larger adult males are more likely to be attacked by predators. Other potential factors affecting this difference are discussed. Experimental group and age-sex group did not interact for FID or DF. Because lizards foraging on inflorescences above ground fled to the base of the plants to refuge provided by spiny thistle leaves, their DF was shorter than in the other groups, which fled across the ground, usually without entering refuge. DF did not differ between groups on the ground or among age-sex groups. The predicted shorter DF for lizards with cut inflorescences than on ground without inflorescences did not occur. We hypothesize that the opportunity cost was small due to the abundance of blooming thistles and that DF may be less sensitive to opportunity cost than FID.