Predation-associated modulation of movement-based signals by a Bahamian lizard

David S. Steinberg, Jonathan B. Losos, Thomas W. Schoener, David A. Spiller, Jason J. Kolbe, Manuel Leal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Signaling individuals must effectively capture and hold the attention of intended conspecific receivers while limiting eavesdropping by potential predators. A possible mechanism for achieving this balance is for individuals to modulate the physical properties of their signals or to alter the proportion of time spent signaling, depending upon local levels of predation pressure. We test the hypothesis that prey can alter their visual signaling behavior to decrease conspicuousness and potentially limit predation risk via modulation of signal properties or display rate. To do so, we conducted a manipulative experiment in nature to evaluate the possible effect of predation pressure on the physical properties of movement-based signals and on the proportion of time spent signaling by using a well-understood predator-prey system in the Bahamas, the semiarboreal lizard Anolis sagrei, and one of its main predators, the curly-tailed lizard Leiocephalus carinatus. We find that on islands onto which the predator was introduced, male anoles reduce the maximum amplitude of head-bob displays but not the proportion of time spent signaling, in comparison with control islands lacking the predator. This reduction of amplitude also decreases signal active space, which might alter the reproductive success of signaling individuals. We suggest that future studies of predator-prey interactions consider the risk effects generated by changes in signals or signaling behavior to fully determine the influence of predation pressure on the dynamics of prey populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9187-9192
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 24 2014


  • Communication
  • Signal modulation


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