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Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Dec 7;277(1700):3547-54. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0742. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

Motion perception and visual signal design in Anolis lizards.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Union College, Schenectady, NY 12308, USA.


Anolis lizards communicate with displays consisting of motion of the head and body. Early portions of long-distance displays require movements that are effective at eliciting the attention of potential receivers. We studied signal-motion efficacy using a two-dimensional visual-motion detection (2DMD) model consisting of a grid of correlation-type elementary motion detectors. This 2DMD model has been shown to accurately predict Anolis lizard behavioural response. We tested different patterns of artificially generated motion and found that an abrupt 0.3° shift of position in less than 100 ms is optimal. We quantified motion in displays of 25 individuals from five species. Four species employ near-optimal movement patterns. We tested displays of these species using the 2DMD model on scenes with and without moderate wind. Display movements can easily be detected, even in the presence of windblown vegetation. The fifth species does not typically use the most effective display movements and display movements cannot be discerned by the 2DMD model in the presence of windblown vegetation. A number of Anolis species use abrupt up-and-down head movements approximately 10 mm in amplitude in displays, and these movements appear to be extremely effective for stimulating the receiver visual system.

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