The response of pygmy bluetongue lizards to simulated grazing in the field during three drought years

Melissa Pettigrew, Christopher Bull

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

    13 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Context Grazing by domestic stock can directly influence and shape the functions of an ecosystem. Most remaining remnant native grasslands in Australia are under some form of grazing management, with some possible adverse impacts for endemic grassland biota. For the endangered pygmy bluetongue lizard (Tiliqua adelaidensis), grazing of its remnant native grassland habitat has been seen as a potential conservation threat. Aim We aimed to investigate whether lizards altered their basking and foraging behaviour as a response to simulated grazing of the grassland habitat surrounding their burrows. Methods We used field manipulations over 3 years event by manually removing above-ground vegetation in 1m2 around occupied lizard burrows, to simulate intense grazing events. We video-recorded lizard responses to these manipulations. We filmed lizards before and after the simulated grazing event and monitored basking and foraging response. We also simultaneously filmed a control group of lizards that were not exposed to a simulated grazing event. Key results Although overall time spent basking did not differ between treatment and control groups, the lizards spent more of their basking time completely emerged (bold basking) in the grazing treatment, suggesting they changed behaviour after simulated grazing. Perhaps they were more confident of evading predators that they could more clearly see approaching. In one season lizards made more attempts to catch prey in the grazed treatment than in a control treatment following the treatment, suggesting that grazing might enhance visibility for the ambush predation method that these lizards use. Conclusions The results suggest that grazing may produce some benefits for lizards already established in burrows. This contrasts with some previous results and suggests that management of grazing regimes requires careful consideration of the conditions currently prevalent. In this case, the study was conducted during a drought period, and different results might have emerged in higher rainfall years. Implications Grazing management for lizard conservation requires detailed understanding of the complex relationships among lizard behaviour, vegetation cover and invertebrate prey availability.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)540-545
    Number of pages6
    JournalWildlife Research
    Volume39
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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