Publication details

High predation risk decimates survival during the reproduction season

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Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Ecology and Evolution
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords caudal autotomy; CJS model; escape rate; predation risk; predator pressure; reptile
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Description Predators attack conspicuous prey phenotypes that are present in the environment. Male display behavior of conspicuous nuptial coloration becomes risky in the presence of a predator, and adult males face higher predation risk. High predation risk in one sex will lead to low survival and sex ratio bias in adult cohorts, unless the increased predation risk is compensated by higher escape rate. Here, we tested the hypothesis that sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) have sex-specific predation risk and escape rate. We expected the differences to manifest in changes in sex ratio with age, differences in frequency of tail autotomy, and in sex-specific survival rate. We developed a statistical model to estimate predation risk and escape rate, combining the observed sex ratio and frequency of tail autotomy with likelihood-based survival rate. Using Bayesian framework, we estimated the model parameters. We projected the date of the tail autotomy events from growth rates derived from capture-recapture data measurements. We found statistically stable sex ratio in age groups, equal frequency of tail regenerates between sexes, and similar survival rate. Predation risk is similar between sexes, and escape rate increases survival by about 5%. We found low survival rate and a low number of tail autotomy events in females during months when sand lizards mate and lay eggs, indicating high predator pressure throughout reproduction. Our data show that gravid females fail to escape predation. The risks of reproduction season in an ectotherm are a convolution of morphological changes (conspicuous coloration in males and body allometry changes in gravid females), behavior (nuptial displays), and environmental conditions which challenge lizard thermal performance. Performance of endotherm predators in cold spring months endangers gravid females more than displaying males in bright nuptial coloration.
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