The ability of lizards to identify an artificial Batesian mimic


Josef Beneš, Petr Veselý

DOI: 10.1016/j.zool.2017.05.010


Birds are usually considered the main predators shaping the evolution of aposematic signals and mimicry. Nevertheless, some lizards also represent predominately visually oriented predators, so they may also play an important role in the evolution of aposematism. Despite this fact, experimental evidence regarding the responses of lizards to aposematic prey is very poor compared to such evidence in birds. Lizards possess very similar sensory and cognitive abilities to those of birds and their response to aposematic prey may thus be affected by very similar processes. We investigated the reactions of a lizard, the Gran Canaria skink (Chalcides sexlineatus), to an aposematic prey and its artificial Batesian mimic. Further, we attempted to ascertain whether the lizard’s food experience has any effect on its ability to recognise an artificial Batesian mimic, by using two groups of predators differing in their prior experience with the prey from which the mimic was fabricated. The red firebug (Pyrrhocoris apterus) was used as an aposematic model, and the Guyana spotted roach (Blaptica dubia) as the palatable prey from which the mimic was fabricated. The appearance of the roach was modified by a paper sticker placed on its back. The skinks showed a strong aversion towards the model firebug. They also avoided attacking the cockroaches with the firebug pattern sticker. This suggests that a visual rather than a chemical signal is responsible for this aversion. The protection provided by the firebug sticker was even effective when the skinks were familiar with unmodified cockroaches (previous food experience).

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