Tasty figs and tasteless flies: Plant chemical discrimination but no prey chemical discrimination in the cordylid lizard Platysaurus broadleyi

Martin J. Whiting*, William E. Cooper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Lizards use visual and/or chemical cues to locate and identify food. The ability to discriminate prey chemical cues is affected by phylogeny, diet, and foraging mode. Augrabies flat lizards (Platysaurus broadleyi) are omnivorous members of the lizard clade Scleroglossa. Within Scleroglossa, all previously tested omnivores are capable of both prey and plant chemical discrimination. At Augrabies Falls National Park, P. broadleyi feed on both insects (black flies) and plant material (figs), and as scleroglossans, are predicted to discriminate both plant and prey chemicals. However, Platysaurus broadleyi use visual, not chemical cues, to detect and capture black flies, which occur in large concentrations in the study area. We tested free-ranging individuals for the ability to discriminate insect and plant chemicals from controls. There was a significant stimulus effect such that lizards tongue-flicked fig-labelled tiles significantly more than the remaining stimuli, spent more time at the fig-labelled tile, and attempted to eat fig-labelled tiles more often than tiles labelled with control or insect stimuli. Platysaurus broadleyi is exceptional in being the first lizard shown to possess plant chemical discrimination but to lack prey chemical discrimination. We suggest that an absence of prey chemical discrimination may be a consequence of foraging behaviour and environmental effects. Because insect prey are highly clumped, abundant, and aerial, profitable ambushing using visual cues may have relaxed any selective pressure favouring insect prey chemical discrimination. However, a more likely alternative is that responses to figs are gustatory, whereas as prey chemical discrimination and plant chemical discrimination are usually mediated by vomerolfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-17
Number of pages5
JournalActa Ethologica
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Chemical discrimination
  • Figs
  • Plant chemicals
  • Prey chemicals
  • Selection

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