Effects of gravidity on the locomotor performance and escape behaviour of two lizard populations: the importance of habitat structure

in Behaviour
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In lizards, locomotor costs of gravidity may depend on habitat structure and refuge availability. We compared the locomotor performance and escape tactics in the laboratory, before and after oviposition, of two populations of Psammodromus algirus separated by 700 m altitude. When gravid, females escaped using a larger number of slower and shorter runs, and had lower temperatures at the time of trial, than after oviposition. Some of these effects differed between populations: when gravid, but not after oviposition, low-elevation females ran shorter distances at a slower average speed than high-elevation ones. Low-elevation females laid their clutches earlier than high-elevation ones, which conditioned their lower speed when gravid in simultaneous running trials. However, their escape distances were still shorter after controlling for the effects of temperature and laying date. In the field, refuge availability was lower at the low-elevation site, where females spent more time inside refuges and perching above ground. The shorter escape distance of low-elevation females may, thus, represent a behavioural response to minimize detectability, especially if predator avoidance depends primarily on whether or not the lizard is seen by the predator. Such behavioural adjustments might inhibit selection for evolutionary shifts in the performance of gravid females.



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