Short-Term Dispersal Response of an Endangered Australian Lizard Varies with Time of Year
Bull, Christopher Michael
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Dispersal is an important component in the demography of animal populations. Many animals show seasonal changes in their tendency to disperse, reflecting changes in resource availability, mating opportunities, or in population age structure at the time when new offspring enter the population. Understanding when and why dispersal occurs can be important for the management of endangered species. The pygmy bluetongue lizard is an endangered Australian species that occupies and defends single burrow refuges for extended periods of time, rarely moving far from the burrow entrance. However, previous pitfall trapping data have suggested movement of adult males in spring and of juveniles in autumn of each year. In the current study we compared behaviours of adult lizards each month, over the spring-summer activity period over two consecutive field seasons, to provide deeper understanding of the seasonal dispersal pattern. We released adult pygmy bluetongue lizards into a central area, provided with artificial burrows, within large enclosures, and monitored the behaviour and movements of the released lizards over a four day period. There was a consistent decline in time spent basking, amount of movement around burrow entrances, and rates of dispersal from the central release area from early spring to late summer. Results could be relevant to understanding and managing natural populations and for any translocation attempts of this endangered lizard species.