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Social snakes?: non-random association patterns detected in a population of Arizona black rattlesnakes (Crotalus cerberus)

Description

Social structure affects many aspects of ecology including mating systems, dispersal, and movements. The quality and pattern of associations among individuals can define social structure, thus detailed behavioral observations are

Social structure affects many aspects of ecology including mating systems, dispersal, and movements. The quality and pattern of associations among individuals can define social structure, thus detailed behavioral observations are vital to understanding species social structure and many other aspects of their ecology. In squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes), detailed observations of associations among individuals have been primarily limited to several lineages of lizards and have revealed a variety of social structures, including polygynous family group-living and monogamous pair-living. Here I describe the social structure of two communities within a population of Arizona black rattlesnakes (Crotalus cerberus) using association indices and social network analysis. I used remote timelapse cameras to semi-continuously sample rattlesnake behavior at communal basking sites during early April through mid-May in 2011 and 2012. I calculated an association index for each dyad (proportion of time they spent together) and used these indices to construct a weighted, undirected social network for each community. I found that individual C. cerberus vary in their tendency to form associations and are selective about with whom they associate. Some individuals preferred to be alone or in small groups while others preferred to be in large groups. Overall, rattlesnakes exhibited non-random association patterns, and this result was mainly driven by association selection of adults. Adults had greater association strengths and were more likely to have limited and selected associates. I identified eight subgroups within the two communities (five in one, three in the other), all of which contained adults and juveniles. My study is the first to show selected associations among individual snakes, but to my knowledge it is also the first to use association indices and social network analysis to examine association patterns among snakes. When these methods are applied to other snake species that aggregate, I anticipate the `discovery' of similar social structures.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Effects of saltcedar on population structure and habitat utilization of the common side-blotched lizard

Description

Non-native saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) has invaded many riparian communities and is the third most abundant tree in Southwestern riparian areas. I evaluated lizard populations and microhabitat selection during 2009 and

Non-native saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) has invaded many riparian communities and is the third most abundant tree in Southwestern riparian areas. I evaluated lizard populations and microhabitat selection during 2009 and 2010 along the Virgin River in Nevada and Arizona to determine the impact of saltcedar. Along the riparian corridor, I observed common side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana) within two vegetation types: monotypic non-native saltcedar stands or mixed stands of cottonwood (Populus fremontii), willow (Salix spp.), mesquite (Prosopis spp.) and saltcedar. I predicted that population parameters such as body condition, adult to hatchling ratio, abundance, and persistence would vary among vegetation types. Also, I predicted the presence of saltcedar influences how lizards utilize available habitat. Lizard population parameters were obtained from a mark-recapture study in which I captured 233 individual lizards. I examined habitat selection and habitat availability using visual encounter surveys (VES) for lizards and recorded 11 microhabitat variables where 16 lizards were found. I found no significant difference in population parameters between mixed and non-native saltcedar communities. However, population parameters were negatively correlated with canopy cover. I found that lizards selected habitat with low understory and canopy cover regardless of vegetation type. My results indicate that lizards utilize similar structural characteristics in both mixed and non-native vegetation. Understanding impacts of saltcedar on native fauna is important for managers who are tasked with control and management of this non-native species.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2011