The risk allocation hypothesis predicts that animals should be most averse to risk during brief and infrequent high risk situations. For animals in shallow aquatic habitats, encounters with terrestrial predators may represent such a situation. Terrestrial flight responses, acute movements from water onto land following a disturbance, may be a viable escape strategy during encounters with terrestrial predators foraging in shallow aquatic habitats. Sonoran mud turtles (Kinosternon sonoriense) occur in intermittent aquatic habitats in the Peloncillo Mountains, New Mexico. When Sonoran mud turtles were captured by hand in shallow pools or shallow stock tanks they frequently underwent terrestrial flight responses. In five of six trials in shallow stock tanks, and three of seven trials in shallow pools, turtles left the water within 20 min of being released, often climbing out of sight up relatively steep slopes. This behavior was not observed in four trials in which turtles were captured with hoop nets in deep stock tanks. Turtles that underwent terrestrial flight responses were significantly larger than non-responders. Terrestrial flight responses appear to be a risk aversion strategy in Sonoran mud turtles occupying shallow aquatic habitats. This unusual behavior may be widespread among animals that inhabit shallow aquatic habitats.
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