Fight versus flight: the interaction of temperature and body size determines antipredator behaviour in tegu lizards
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Ectotherm antipredator behaviour might be strongly affected both by body temperature and size: when environmental temperatures do not favour maximal locomotor performance, large individuals may confront predators, whereas small animals may flee, simply because they have no other option. However, integration of body size and temperature effects is rarely approached in the study of antipredator behaviour in vertebrate ectotherms. In the present study we investigated whether temperature affects antipredator responses of tegu lizards, Tupinambis merianae, with distinct body sizes, testing the hypothesis that small tegus (juveniles) run away from predators regardless of the environmental temperature, because defensive aggression may not be an effective predator deterrent, whereas adults, which are larger, use aggressive defence at low temperatures, when running performance might be suboptimal. We recorded responses of juvenile (small) and adult (large) tegu lizards to a simulated predatory attack at five environmental temperatures in the laboratory. Most differences between the two size classes were observed at low temperatures: large tegus were more aggressive overall than were small tegus at all temperatures tested, but at lower temperatures, the small lizards often used escape responses whereas the large ones either adopted a defensive posture or remained inactive. These results provide strong evidence that body size and temperature affect the antipredator responses of vertebrate ectotherms. We discuss the complex and intricate network of evolutionary and ecological parameters that are likely to be involved in the evolution of such interactions. (C) 2009 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.