Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 185–189 | Cite as

Do mountain log skinks (Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii) modify their behaviour in the presence of two predators?

  • Jessica Stapley
Original Article


Prey often adopt antipredator strategies to reduce the likelihood of predation. In the presence of predators, prey may use antipredator strategies that are effective against a single predator (specific) or that are effective against several predators (nonspecific). Most studies have been confined to single predator environments although prey are often faced with multiple predators. When more than one predator is present, specific antipredator behaviours can conflict and avoidance of one predator may increase vulnerability to another. To test how prey cope with this dilemma, I recorded the behaviours of lizards responding to the nonlethal cues of a bird and snake presented singly and simultaneously. Lizards use specific and conflicting antipredator tactics when confronted with each predator, as evidenced by refuge use. However, when both predators were present, lizards’ refuge use was the same as in the predator-free environment, indicating that they abandoned refuge use as a primary mechanism for predator avoidance. In the presence of both predators, they reduced their overall movement and time spent thermoregulating. This shift in behaviour may represent a compromise to minimize overall risk, following a change in predator exposure. This provides evidence of plasticity in lizard antipredator behaviour and shows that prey responses to two predators cannot be accurately predicted from what is observed when only one predator is present.


Predator avoidance Multiple predators Scincidae Drysdalia 



I would like to thank my PhD supervisor Scott Keogh for his guidance, support and comments on manuscript drafts. Thanks also go to Bob Wong and the rest of the Keogh laboratory for useful comments and lively discussion on the manuscript. Additional thanks go to William Cooper and two anonymous reviewers for careful editing and useful comments. The ASIH Gaige Fund and the Ecological Society of Australia provided financial support. The research described in this paper was approved by the Animal Experimentation and Ethics Committee of the Australian National University (protocol number: F.BTZ.17.00).


  1. Bauwens D, Garland TJ, Castilla AM, Van Damme R (1995) Evolution of sprint speed in lacertids lizards: morphological, physiological and behavioural covariation. Evolution 49:848–863Google Scholar
  2. Bennett R (1997) Reptiles and frogs of the Australian Capital Territory. National Parks Association of the ACT, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  3. Cogger HG (1996) Reptiles and amphibians of Australia. Reed, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  4. Cooper WEJ, Burghardt M (1990) A comparative analysis of scoring methods for chemical discrimination of prey by squamate reptiles. J Chem Ecol 16:45–65Google Scholar
  5. Downes S, Shine R (2001) Why does tail loss increase a lizard’s vulnerability to snakes? Ecology 82:1293–1303Google Scholar
  6. Fine PVA (1999) Aerial predator recognition by free-ranging Sceloporus occidentalis. J Herpetol 33:128–131Google Scholar
  7. Greene HW (1988) Anti-predator mechanisms in reptiles. In: Gans C (ed) Biology of the reptilia, vol 16. Liss, New York, pp 1–152Google Scholar
  8. Kotler BP, Blaustein L, Brown JS (1992) Predator facilitation: the combined effect of snakes and owls on the foraging behavior of gerbils. Ann Zool Fenn 29:199–206Google Scholar
  9. Krupa JJ, Sih A (1998) Fishing spiders, green sunfish, and a stream-dwelling water strider: male-female conflict and prey responses to single versus multiple predator environments. Oecologia 117:258–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lima AP, Dill LM (1990) Behavioral decisions made under the risk of predation: a review and prospectus. Can J Zool 68:619–634Google Scholar
  11. Martín J, López P (2001) Risk of predation may explain the absence of nuptial coloration in the wall lizard Podarcis muralis. Evol Ecol Res 3:889–898Google Scholar
  12. Matsuda H, Abrams PA, Hori H (1993) The effect of adaptive anti-predator behavior on exploitative competition and mutualism between predators. Oikos 68:549–559Google Scholar
  13. Matsuda H, Hori H, Abrams PA (1994) Effects of predator specific defence community complexity. Evol Ecol 8:628–638Google Scholar
  14. Olsson M (1993) Nuptial coloration and predation risk in model sand lizards, Lacerta-Agilis. Anim Behav 46:410–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Power ME (1984) Depth distributors of amoured catfish: predator induced resource avoidance? Ecology 65:523–528Google Scholar
  16. Quinn GP, Keough MJ (2002) Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  17. Scanlon J (1998) Prey-scaring by visual pursuit predators: a new use for tail-waving in snakes. Herpetofauna 28:5–10Google Scholar
  18. Shine R (1981) Venomous snakes in cold climates: ecology of the Australian genus Drysdalia (Serpentes: Elapidae). Copeia 1:14–25Google Scholar
  19. Sih A, Enlund G, Wooster D (1998) Emergent impacts of multiple predators on prey. Trends Ecol Evol 13:350–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Simpson K, Day N (1993) Field guide to the birds of Australia. Penguin Australia, RingwoodGoogle Scholar
  21. Smith SM (1975) Innate recognition of coral snake pattern by a possible avian predator. Science 187:759–780Google Scholar
  22. Soluk DA (1993) Multiple predator effects: predicting combined functional responses of stream fish and invertebrate predators. Ecology 74:219–225Google Scholar
  23. Soluk DA, Collins NC (1988) Synergistic interactions between fish and stoneflies: facilitation and interference among stream predators. Oikos 52:94–100Google Scholar
  24. Stapley J (2003) Differential avoidance of snake odours by a lizard: evidence for prioritised avoidance based on risk. Ethology 109:785–796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Van Damme R, Van Dooren TJM (1999) Absolute versus per unit body length speed of prey as an estimator of vulnerability to predation. Anim Behav 57:347–352CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Van Damme R, Bauwens D, Thoen C, Vanderstighelen D, Verheyen R (1995) Responses of naive lizards to predator chemical cues. J Herpetol 29:38–43Google Scholar
  27. Veen T, Richardson DS, Blaakmeer K, Komdeur J (2000) Experimental evidence for innate predator recognition in the Seychelles warbler. Proc R Soc Lond Ser B Biol Sci 267:2253–2258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Vilhunen S, Hirvonen H (2003) Innate antipredator responses of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) depend on predator species and their diet. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 55:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Weber A, Declerck S (1997) Phenotypic plasticity of Daphnia life history traits in response to predator kairomones: genetic variability and evolutionary potential. Hydrobiologia 360:89–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Botany and ZoologyAustralian National UniversityCanberra Australia

Personalised recommendations