Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 829–833 | Cite as

Influence of gaze and directness of approach on the escape responses of the Indian rock lizard, Psammophilus dorsalis (Gray, 1831)

  • Rachakonda SreekarEmail author
  • Suhel Quader
Brief communication


Animals often evaluate the degree of risk posed by a predator and respond accordingly. Since many predators orient their eyes towards prey while attacking, predator gaze and directness of approach could serve as conspicuous indicators of risk to prey. The ability to perceive these cues and discriminate between high and low predation risk should benefit prey species through both higher survival and decreased energy expenditure. We experimentally examined whether Indian rock lizards (Psammophilus dorsalis) can perceive these two indicators of predation risk by measuring the variation in their fleeing behaviour in response to type of gaze and approach by a human predator. Overall, we found that the gaze and approach of the predator influenced flight initiation distance, which also varied with attributes of the prey (i.e. size/sex and tail-raise behaviour). Flight initiation distance (FID) was 43% longer during direct approaches with direct gaze compared with tangential approaches with averted gaze. In further, exploratory, analyses, we found that FID was 23% shorter for adult male lizards than for female or young male (FYM) lizards. In addition, FYM lizards that showed a tail-raise display during approach had a 71% longer FID than those that did not. Our results suggest that multiple factors influence the decision to flee in animals. Further studies are needed to test the generality of these factors and to investigate the proximate mechanisms underlying flight decisions.


Anti-predator behaviour agamid gaze orientation tail-raise 



We are grateful to V Santharam and the Rishi Valley Education Centre for logistical help. We would like to thank P Somnath for his assistance in the field; Shreekant Deodhar, Yashada Kulkarni and Sumit Sinha for their constant encouragement and support during the study; Richard Peters, Katya Saini and Ambika Kamath for comments on the earlier drafts; and the three anonymous reviewers for constructive suggestions on improving the manuscript.


  1. Adams JL, Camelio KW, Orique MJ and Blumstein DT 2006 Does information of predators influence general wariness. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 60 742–747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Braun CA, Baird TA and LeBeau JK 2010 Influence of substrate temperature and directness of approach on the escape responses of juvenile collared lizards. Herpetologica 66 418–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blumstein DT 2010 Flush early and avoid the rush: a general rule of antipredator behaviour. Behav. Ecol. 21 440–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burger J and Gochfeld M 1990 Risk discrimination of direct versus tangential approach by basking black iguanas (Ctenosaura similis): variation as a function of human exposure. J. Comp. Psychol. 104 388–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burger J, Gochfeld M and Murray BG 1991 Role of predator eye size in risk perception by basking black iguanas (Ctenosaura similis). Anim. Behav. 42 471–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burger J, Gochfeld M and Murray BG 1992 Risk discrimination of eye contact and directness of approach in black iguanas (Ctenosaura similis). J. Comp. Psychol. 106 97–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carlile PA, Peters RA and Evans CS 2006 Detection of a looming stimulus by the Jacky dragon: selective sensitivity to characteristics of an aerial predator. Anim. Behav. 72 553–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Caro TM 1994 Ungulate antipredator behaviour: preliminary and comparative data from African bovids. Behaviour 128 189–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Caro T 2005 Antipredator defenses in birds and mammals (Chicago: University of Chicago)Google Scholar
  10. Carter J, Lyons NJ, Cole HL and Goldsmith AR 2008 Subtle cues of predation risk: starlings respond to a predator’s direction of eye-gaze. P. Roy. Soc. Lond. B. Bio. 275 1709–1715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cooper WE 1997a Threat factors affecting antipredatory behaviour in the broad-headed skink (Eumeces laticeps): Repeated approach, change in predator path, and predator’s field of view. Copeia 1997 613–619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooper WE 1997b Factors affecting risk and cost of escape by the broad-headed skink (Eumeces laticeps): Predator Speed, directness of approach, and female presence. Herpetologica 53 464–474Google Scholar
  13. Cooper WE 2001 Multiple roles of tail display by the curly-tailed lizard Leiocephalus carinatus: Pursuit deterrent and deflective roles of a social signal. Ethology 107 1137–1149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cooper WE 2006 Dynamic risk assessment: Prey rapidly adjust flight initiation distance to changes in predator approach speed. Ethology 112 858–864CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cooper WE and Frederick WG 2007 Optimal flight initiation distance. J. Theor. Biol. 244 59–67PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cooper WE and Pérez-Mellado V 2011 Escape by the balearic lizard (Podarcis lilfordi) is affected by elevation of an approaching predator, but not by some other potential predation risk factors. Acta Herpetologica 6 247–259Google Scholar
  17. Daniel JC 2002 The book of Indian reptiles and amphibians (Mumbai: Oxford University press)Google Scholar
  18. Dawkins R 2009 The greatest show on earth (London: Transworld publishers)Google Scholar
  19. Devereux CL, Whittingham MJ, Fernandez-Juricic E, Vickery JA and Krebs JR 2006 Predator detection and avoidance by starlings under differing scenarios of predation risk. Behav. Ecol. 17 303–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fernandez-Juricic E, Jimenez MD and Lucas E 2002 Factors affecting intra- and inter-specific variations in the difference between alert distances and flight distances for birds in forested habitats. Can. J. Zool. 80 1212–1220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frid A and Dill L 2002 Human-caused disturbance stimuli as a form of predation risk. Ecol. Soc. 6 11Google Scholar
  22. Gotanda KM, Turgeon K and Kramer DL 2009 Body size and reserve protection affect flight initiation distances in parrotfishes. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 63 1563–1572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Griesser M 2009 Mobbing calls signal predator category in a kin group-living bird species. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B Bio. 276 2887–2892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harrell FE 2001 Regression modeling strategies (New York: Springer)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hasson O 1991 Pursuit-deterrent signals: communication between prey and predator. Trends. Ecol. Evol. 6 325–329PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kramer DL and Bonenfant M 1997 Direction of predator approach and the decision to flee to a refuge. Anim. Behav. 54 289–295PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Larimer SC, Powell R and Parmerlee JS 2006 Effects of structural habitat on the escape behaviour of the lizard, Anolis gingivinus. Amphibia-Reptilia 27 569–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leal M 1999 Honest signalling during prey-predator interactions in the lizard Anolis cristatellus. Anim. Behav. 58 521–526PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Leyhausen P 1973 Verhaltensstudien an katzen (Berlin: Paul Parey)Google Scholar
  30. Martín J, de Neve L, Fargallo JA, Polo V and Soler M 2004 Factors effecting the escape behaviour of juvenile chinstrap penguins, Pygoscelis antarctica, in response to human disturbance. Polar Biol. 27 775–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Martins EP 1993 Contextual use of the push-up display by the sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus graciosus. Anim. Behav. 45 25–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mathot KJ, van den Hout PJ and Piersma T 2009 Differential responses of red knots, Calidris canutus, to perching and flying sparrowhawk Accipter nisus, models. Anim. Behav. 77 1179–1185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. R Development Core Team 2012 R: A Language and environment for statistical computing (Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing)Google Scholar
  34. Radder RS, Saidapur SK and Shanbhag BA 2005 Population density, microhabitat use and activity pattern of the Indian rock lizard, Psammophilus dorsalis. Curr. Sci. 89 560–565Google Scholar
  35. Radder RS, Saidapur SK and Shanbhag BA 2006a Big boys on top: effects of body size, sex and reproductive state on perching behaviour in the tropical rock dragon, Psammophilus dorsalis. Anim. Biol. 56 311–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Radder RS, Saidapur SK, Shine R and Shanbhag BA 2006b Language of lizards: interpreting visual displays in the Indian rock lizard, Psammophillus dorsalis. J. Ethol. 24 275–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rivas JA and Burghardt GM 2001 Understanding sexual size dimorphism in snakes: wearing the snake’s shoes. Anim. Behav. 62 F1–F6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stankowich T and Blumstein DT 2005 Fear in animals: a meta analysis and review of risk assessment. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. 272 2627–2634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stankowich T 2008 Ungulate flight responses to human disturbance: A review and meta analysis. Biol. Conserv. 141 2159–2173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Templeton CN, Greene E and Davis K 2005 Allometry of alarm calls: black-capped chickadees encode information about predator size. Science 308 1934–1937PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Watve M, Thakar J, Kale A, Puntambekar S, Shaikh I, Vaze K, Jog M and Paranjape S 2002 Bee-eaters (Merops orientalis) respond to what a predator can see. Anim.Cogn. 5 253–259Google Scholar
  42. Yachi S 1995 How can honest signalling evolve? The role of the handicap principle. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. 262 283–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ydenberg RC and Dill LM 1986 The economics of fleeing from predators. Adv. Stud. Behav. 16 229–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Centre for Biological SciencesBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest EcologyXishuangbanna Tropical Botanical GardenYunnanChina.
  3. 3.Nature Conservation FoundationMysoreIndia.

Personalised recommendations