Ord, TJ, Peters RA , Clucas, B & Stamps JA (in press) Lizards speed up visual displays in noisy motion habitats Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B


Extensive research over the last few decades has revealed that many acoustically communicating animals compensate for the masking effect of background noise by changing the structure of their signals. Familiar examples include birds using acoustic properties that enhance the transmission of vocalizations in noisy habitats. Here, we show that the effects of background noise on communication signals are not limited to the acoustic modality, and that visual noise from windblown vegetation has an equally important influence on the production of dynamic visual displays. We found that two species of Puerto Rican lizard, Anolis cristatellus and A. gundlachi, increase the speed of body movements used in territorial signalling to apparently improve communication in visually 'noisy' environments of rapidly moving vegetation. This is the first evidence that animals change how they produce dynamic visual signals when communicating in noisy motion habitats. Taken together with previous work on acoustic communication, our results show that animals with very different sensory ecologies can face similar environmental constraints and adopt remarkably similar strategies to overcome these constraints.

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