Fight versus flight: Body temperature influences defensive responses of lizards

Paul E. Hertz, Raymond B. Huey, Eviatar Nevo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In laboratory studies we determined that the defensive responses used by two agamid lizards, Agama savignyi and A. pallida, change as a function of body temperature. At high body temperatures, these lizards flee rapidly from predators. At lower body temperatures, which reduce sprint speed, the lizards rarely run but instead hold their ground and attack aggressively. This temperature-dependent switch in defensive behaviour may have evolved because cold lizards that live in open habitats would have little chance of outrunning predators. Defensive behaviours of animals may in general be sensitive to physiological variables that influence locomotor performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676,IN3-IN4,677-679
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1982

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the National Science Foundation (DEB 78-12024), the Spivack Fund and Research and Travel Fund of Barnard College, the Graduate School Research Fund of the University of Washington, and the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF, Jerusalem, Israel). We thank A. F. Bennett, R. K. Colwell, C. Guns, E. Fischer, H. W. Greene, A. M. Hawkins, J. H. Hoofien, H. Mendelssohn, S. M. Moody, J. A. Nelson, R. C. Snyder, R. D. Stevenson, and C. R. Tracy for assistance, and M. Slatkin for unsolicited titular advice.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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