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Abstract

Escape theory predicts that flight initiation distance (predator–prey distance when escape begins) increases as predation risk increases and decreases as cost of fleeing increases. Scant information is available about the effects of some putative predation risk factors and about interaction between simultaneously operating risk and cost of fleeing factors on flight initiation distance and distance fled. By simulating an approaching predator, I studied the effects of body temperature (BT), distance to nearest refuge, and eye contact with a predator, as well as simultaneous effects of predator approach speed and female presence/absence on escape behavior by a small ectothermic vertebrate, the lizard Sceloporus virgatus. Flight initiation distance decreased as BT increased, presumably because running speed increases as BT increases, facilitating escape. Distance to nearest refuge was unrelated to BT or flight initiation distance. Substrate temperature was only marginally related, and air temperature was not related to flight initiation distance. Eye contact did not affect flight initiation during indirect approaches that bypassed lizards by a minimum of 1 m, but an effect of eye contact found in other studies during direct approach might occur. Predator approach speed and presence of a female interactively affected flight initiation distance, which increased as speed increased and decreased when a female was present. In the presence of a female, flight initiation distance was far shorter than when no female was present. The high cost of forgoing a mating opportunity accounts for the interaction because the difference between female presence and absence is greater when risk is greater.