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Risks Associated with Predator Immobility, Movement Direction, and Turn Direction Similarly Affect Pursuit-Deterrent Signaling and Escape by Zebra-Tailed Lizards (Callisaurus draconoides)


William Cooper, Department of Biology, Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN 46805, USA.


Some prey may signal to deter pursuit by predators. Because deterrence is not needed when risk is low or useful when capture is imminent, most signaling should occur at intermediate risk. Probability of fleeing increases with risk for various risk factors. At low–intermediate risk, more frequent signaling should occur as assessed risk associated with risk factors increases. I examined the effects of three risk factors related to immobility and movement by a predator: standing distance (distance from prey to immobile predator), directions of walking, and turning by the predator. Risk is greater when the predator stands nearer, walks toward prey vs. retreating, and turns toward prey vs. away. In the lizard Callisaurus draconoides, which signals by elevating and waving its tail, signaling was more frequent before fleeing when I stood immobile at the shorter of two distances. All the lizards fled when I walked toward them, regardless of standing distance. Fewer fled when I moved away and only at the shorter standing distance. At the shorter standing distance, signal probability was high and did not differ between movement directions. At the longer standing distance, fewer lizards signaled and only when I moved toward them. Patterns of response of signaling and escape to combinations of standing distance and turn direction were qualitatively identical. When I turned away from lizards, none displayed or fled at the longer standing distance. At the shorter standing distance, probabilities of displaying and fleeing were higher when I turned toward than away from lizards. Standing distance affected signaling interactively with directions of movement and turning in manners readily interpretable from risk. Signaling was affected by risk associated with all factors, being absent or infrequent at both high- and low-risk levels but frequent at intermediate risk, strengthening evidence for pursuit-deterrent signaling.

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