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Fear no colors? Observer clothing color influences lizard escape behavior.

  • Author(s): Putman, Breanna J
  • Drury, Jonathan P
  • Blumstein, Daniel T
  • Pauly, Gregory B
  • et al.
Abstract

Animals often view humans as predators, leading to alterations in their behavior. Even nuanced aspects of human activity like clothing color affect animal behavior, but we lack an understanding of when and where such effects will occur. The species confidence hypothesis posits that birds are attracted to colors found on their bodies and repelled by non-body colors. Here, we extend this hypothesis taxonomically and conceptually to test whether this pattern is applicable in a non-avian reptile and to suggest that species should respond less fearfully to their sexually-selected signaling color. Responses to clothing color could also be impacted by habituation to humans, so we examine whether behavior varied between areas with low and high human activity. We quantified the effects of four T-shirt colors on flight initiation distances (FID) and on the ease of capture in western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis), and we accounted for detectability against the background environment. We found no differences in lizard behavior between sites. However, lizards tolerated the closest approaches and were most likely to be captured when approached with the T-shirt that resembled their sexually-selected signaling color. Because changes in individual behavior affect fitness, choice of clothing color by people, including tourists, hikers, and researchers, could impact wildlife populations and research outcomes.

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