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Properties of an attention-grabbing motion signal: a comparison of tail and body movements in a lizard

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posted on 2022-06-07, 06:18 authored by Richard PetersRichard Peters, Jose RamosJose Ramos
Animals signals must be detected by receiver sensory systems, and overcome a variety of local ecological factors that could otherwise affect their transmission and reception. Habitat structure, competition, avoidance of unintended receivers and varying environmental conditions have all been shown to influence how animals signal. Environmental noise is also crucial, and animals modify their behavior in response to it. Animals generating movement-based visual signals have to contend with wind-blown plants that generate motion noise and can affect the detection of salient movements. The lizard Amphibolurus muricatus uses tail flicking at the start of displays to attract attention, and we hypothesized that tail movements are ideally suited to this function. We compared visual amplitudes generated by tail movements with push-ups, which are a key component of the rest of the display. We show that tail movement amplitudes are highly variable over the course of the display but consistently greater than amplitudes generated by push-ups and not constrained by viewing position. We suggest that these features, combined with the tail being a light structure that does not compromise other activities, provide an ideal introductory component for attracting attention in the ecological setting in which they are generated.


This work was funded by a grant to RAP from the Australian Research Council under the Discovery Projects scheme (DP170102370).


Publication Date



Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology






13p. (p. 373-385)





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