Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 709–720

Responses to Major Categories of Food Chemicals by the Lizard Podarcis lilfordi

  • William E. CooperJr.
  • Valentín Pérez-Mellado
  • Laurie J. Vitt


Many lizards are capable of identifying food using only chemical cues from food surfaces, but almost nothing is known about the types of compounds that are effective stimuli. We experimentally studied lingual and biting responses by a lacertid lizard, Podarcis lilfordi, to single representatives of three major categories of food chemicals, sucrose as a carbohydrate, pure pork fat as a mixture of lipids, and bovine gamma globulin as a protein. In 60-sec trials in which stimuli were presented on cotton swabs, the lizards detected all three stimuli, exhibiting more tongue-flicks, licks, or bites, or a greater tongue-flick attack score (TFAS; overall measure of response strength to prey stimuli) than to deionized water. The initial response to all stimuli was tongue-flicking, but the lizards discriminated among the types of chemical stimuli. After preliminary tongue-flicks, the lizards responded to sucrose solutions by licking at high rates, to pure pork fat by biting, and to protein by a combination of additional tongue-flicks and biting. Biting is a feeding response to prey or solid plant material. Licking is a feeding response to sugars in nectar or ripe fruit. Its frequency increased with sucrose concentration. Our data suggest that lizards can identify several types of chemicals associated with food and direct feeding attempts to sources of such chemicals in the absence of visual cues.

Behavior chemical senses tongue-flicking food chemicals Squamata Lacertidae Podarcis lilfordi 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • William E. CooperJr.
    • 1
  • Valentín Pérez-Mellado
    • 2
  • Laurie J. Vitt
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyIndiana University-Purdue University at Fort WayneFort Wayne
  2. 2.Departamento de Biologia AnimalUniversidad de SalamancaSalamancaSpain
  3. 3.Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and Department of ZoologyUniversity of OklahomaNorman

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