Prey Chemical Discrimination in the Lizard Eugongylus albofasciolatus and Its Distribution in Scincidae

William E. Cooper, Jr.


Actively foraging lizards tongue-flick while searching for prey, and have evolved strong responsiveness to prey chemicals. This trait is universal among active foragers that have been tested, which can locate and identify prey using only chemical cues sampled by tongue-flicking. In Scincidae, prey chemical discrimination has been confirmed in several species of active foragers, and is absent in a single ambush forager. However, responses to prey chemicals remain untested in large scincid taxonomic groups. When tested experimentally for tongue-flicking and biting in response to chemicals on cotton swabs, Eugongylus albofasciolatus exhibited prey chemical discrimination by responding more strongly than to deionized water and cologne controls. These results extend prey chemical discrimination to a new group of lygosomines, the Eugongylus group. Current evidence suggests that prey chemical discrimination may be universal in Eumecinae, is present in at least one species of Scincinae, and is widespread in Lygosominae, being present in the Eugongylus, Sphenomorphus, and Egernia groups, as well as in actively foraging Mabuya. Although no data are available for Acontinae or Feylininae, it is likely that prey chemical discrimination is plesiomorphic and nearly universal in Scincinae, the exceptions being ambush foragers.


behavior; prey chemical discrimination; Tongue; Squamata; Scincidae

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