Spatial dynamics and burrow occupancy in a desert lizard floodplain specialist, Liopholis slateri

Claire E. Treilibs, Chris R. Pavey, Michael G. Gardner, Mina H. Ansari, C. Michael Bull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


1. Desert river floodplains are resource rich but high-risk habitats. For surface-dwelling animals in these habitats, persistence is a trade-off between the advantages of relatively abundant food resources and the costs of episodic surface disturbances from infrequent but unpredictable rainfall events. 2. In central Australia, there are few non-flying, terrestrial species that are specialised floodplain occupants, and their persistence strategies are not well understood. 3. Using photographic mark-recapture and scat DNA, we observed a population of one such desert floodplain specialist, Slater's skink Liopholis slateri, over four years to understand how it persists in these disturbance-prone habitats. 4. We found evidence of a highly mobile, but site stable population, with spatial clustering of burrows into local ‘neighbourhoods’. There were relatively low fluctuations in population size among years, with a second seasonal breeding event following heavy rain in January 2015. We observed both long-term residence of individuals and long-term use of burrows at the site. 5. Frequent movements within and among neighbourhoods, and regular burrow construction, suggest a population capable of dispersal in the event of high intensity disturbance. Dispersing individuals and some neighbourhoods may act as recolonization sources in the event of a flood extirpating the core population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-17
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Arid habitats
  • Liopholis
  • Persistence strategy
  • Photographic mark-recapture
  • Scat DNA


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