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Behav Ecol Sociobiol. 2011 Apr;65(4):837-847. Epub 2010 Nov 3.

The influence of refuge sharing on social behaviour in the lizard Tiliqua rugosa.


Refuge sharing by otherwise solitary individuals during periods of inactivity is an integral part of social behaviour and has been suggested to be the precursor to more complex social behaviour. We compared social association patterns of active versus inactive sheltering individuals in the social Australian sleepy lizard, Tiliqua rugosa, to empirically test the hypothesis that refuge sharing facilitates social associations while individuals are active. We fitted 18 neighbouring lizards with Global Positioning System (GPS) recorders to continuously monitor social associations among all individuals, based on location records taken every 10 min for 3 months. Based on these spatial data, we constructed three weighted, undirected social networks. Two networks were based on empirical association data (one for active and one for inactive lizards in their refuges), and a third null model network was based on hypothetical random refuge sharing. We found patterns opposite to the predictions of our hypothesis. Most importantly, association strength was higher in active than in inactive sheltering lizards. That is, individual lizards were more likely to associate with other lizards while active than while inactive and in shelters. Thus, refuge sharing did not lead to increased frequencies of social associations while lizards were active, and we did not find any evidence that refuge sharing was a precursor to sleepy lizard social behaviour. Our study of an unusually social reptile provides both quantitative data on the relationship between refuge sharing and social associations during periods of activity and further insights into the evolution of social behaviour in vertebrates.

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