Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 156, Issue 4, pp 547–552 | Cite as

Orientation in a desert lizard (Uma notata): time-compensated compass movement and polarotaxis

  • Kraig Adler
  • John B. Phillips


The diurnal escape response of fringetoed lizards (Uma notata) startled by predators demonstrates clear directional orientation not likely to depend on local landmarks in the shifting sands of their desert environment. Evidence that celestial orientation is involved in this behavior has been sought in the present experiments by testing the effects of (1) phase shifting the animal's internal clock by 6 h and (2) by training the lizards to seek shelter while exposed to natural polarization patterns. In the first case, 90° shifts in escape direction were demonstrated in outdoor tests, as expected if a time-compensated sun or sky polarized light compass is involved. In the second instance, significant bimodale-vector dependent orientation was found under an overhead polarizing light filter but this was only evident when the response data were transposed to match the zenithe-vector rotation dependent on the sun's apparent movement through the sky. This extends to reptiles the capacity to utilize overheade-vector directions as a time-compensated sky compass. The sensory site of this discrimination and the relative roles of sun and sky polarization in nature remain to be discovered.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kraig Adler
    • 1
  • John B. Phillips
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Neurobiology and BehaviorCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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