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The response of a sleepy lizard social network to altered ecological conditions

Godfrey, S. and Bull, M. (2012) The response of a sleepy lizard social network to altered ecological conditions. In: Ecological Society of Australia, Annual Conference, 3 - 7 December, Melbourne, Australia.


Background/question/methods: The behaviour of individuals is often constrained by temporal or spatial variation in ecological conditions. How do individuals respond to these changing ecological conditions, and what impact does this have on the resultant social organisation? We use a social network approach to ask this question in the pair-living sleepy lizard, Tiliqua rugosa. We attached GPS data loggers to lizards to record their movement, activity, and social interactions, during their activity period (Oct – Dec) across three years (2008–2010). The three years varied substantially in ecological conditions; from hot and dry in 2008, to cool and wet in 2010.

Results/conclusions: Lizards spent less time active, and overlapped in home range area more with conspecifics in 2008, than in subsequent years. Despite this variation in behaviour among years, the number and strength of connections among individuals was stable across years. However, the nature of the connections did vary among years. There was a higher incidence of intra-sexual associations and lower incidence of inter-sexual associations in 2008, than 2009 and 2010. Similarly, among male-female dyads, pairing intensity was lower, and extra-pair strength was higher in 2008, than 2009 and 2010. Thus, these results suggest that although the overall social network is tolerant to changes in ecological conditions, the nature of contacts within the network shift in response to ecological conditions.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
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