Space use and daily movement patterns in an arid zone agamid lizard

Publication Name

Wildlife Research


Context: Quantifying the space use and movement patterns of animals is important to understand other aspects of a species ecology, such as habitat use and social systems. However, basic data on space use and movement patterns, and how they are influenced by biotic or abiotic factors, are lacking for many species. Aims: We identified the space use and movement patterns of the central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), and assessed how external factors (environmental conditions) and internal factors (sex and morphology) shape these patterns. Methods: We tracked 36 P. vitticeps individuals over three seasons from 2017 to 2018. Animals carried tags with a Global Positioning Systems (GPS) device to collect spatial data and an accelerometer to collect movement data in far western New South Wales, Australia. Measurements of body morphology were taken for each individual and ambient temperatures were recorded. Space use was analysed by calculating minimum convex polygons (MCPs) and kernel density estimates (KDEs) using the spatial data. Movement data were analysed to determine whether dragons had moved during 10-min periods. Results: Twenty-three out of 36 individuals held defined activity areas. Males with wider tails were most likely to be floaters (i.e. not restricted to specific areas). Evidence of floater behaviour was shown by 45% of females and 20% of males, though both sexes often roamed over distances greater than 1 km. Air temperatures strongly influenced movement rates in both sexes. Movement rate was significantly higher for males than females during late-spring, but not mid-summer, and was inversely related to head sizes and body mass during mid-summer. Interestingly, although there was no correlation observed between daily movement rates and size of MCPs calculated, the movement rates of residents were significantly different from floaters for each season. Conclusions: These results confirm that wild P. vitticeps movement patterns are driven by temperature, though space-use patterns vary from previously studied agamids, with high rates of nomadism, possibly due to drought conditions. Individuals varied widely in their space-use tactics, which seem unrelated to size, a potential proxy for social status or age. Implications: Our study provides baseline information on a common arid zone agamid that is lacking research in the wild. More complex studies on the ecology of P. vitticeps can build on the findings of this study.

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