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Keywords:

  • Common lizard;
  • dispersal;
  • immigration;
  • socially acquired information

Abstract

‘Should I stay or should I go?’ is a fundamental question facing any candidate for emigration, as emigrating without outside information has major costs. Most studies on this topic have concentrated on risk-reducing strategies (e.g. exploration) developed after leaving the natal habitat. The idea that information might be acquired before leaving has not been investigated. Immigrants carrying information about their origins could provide such information to potential emigrants in their initial habitat. We manipulated the density of common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) populations, to investigate whether immigrants originating from these populations transmitted such information to the population they joined. Emigration of the residents of this new population clearly depended on the origin of the immigrant. Immigrants are therefore a source of information, in this case about surrounding population densities, and may have a major effect on dispersal and species persistence in a fragmented habitat.