We demonstrate that the visual amplitudes generated by tail flicking of Jacky lizards are larger than obvious alternative (push-ups) and remain effective from any viewing position around the signaller. We argue that they are better suited to the environmental context in which they are used than push-ups.
Animals signals must be detected by receiver sensory systems, and overcome a variety of local ecological factors that could otherwise afect their transmission and reception. Habitat structure, competition, avoidance of unintended receivers and varying environmental conditions have all been shown to infuence 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 afect the detection of salient movements. The lizard Amphibolurus muricatus uses tail ficking 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.
View the paper here: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-022-01544-3