Complex Relationships amongst Parasite Load and Escape Behaviour in an Insular Lizard

Mario Garrido, Valentín Pérez-Mellado, William E. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Economic escape models predict escape decisions of prey which are approached by predators. Flight initiation distance (FID, predator-prey distance when prey begins to flee) and distance fled (DF) are major variables used to characterize escape responses. In optimal escape theory, FID increases as cost of not fleeing also increases. Moreover, FID decreases as cost of fleeing increases, due to lost opportunities to perform activities that may increase fitness. Finally, FID further increases as the prey's fitness increases. Some factors, including parasitism, may affect more than one of these predictors of FID. Initially, parasitized prey may have lower fitness as well as impaired locomotor ability, which would avoid predation and/or reduce their foraging ability, further decreasing the opportunity of fleeing. For example, if parasites decrease body condition, prey fitness is reduced and escape ability may be impaired. Hence, the overall influence of parasitism on FID is difficult to predict. We examined relationships between escape decisions and different traits: parasite load, body size and body condition in the Balearic lizard, Podarcis lilfordi. Lizards that showed higher haemogregarines load had longer FID and shorter DF. Although results did not confirm our initial predictions made on the basis of optimal escape theory, our findings suggest that parasites can alter several aspects of escape behaviour in a complex way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-124
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Body condition
  • Distance fled
  • Flight initiation distance
  • Optimal escape theory
  • Parasitism


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