Get access

Male-biased dispersal in a tropical Australian snake (Stegonotus cucullatus, Colubridae)


Sylvain Dubey, Fax: +61 2 93515609; E-mail:


Sex-based differences in dispersal distances can affect critical population parameters such as inbreeding rates and the spatial scale of local adaptation. Males tend to disperse further than females in mammals, whereas the reverse is true for birds; too few reptiles have been studied to reveal generalities for that group. Although reptiles are most diverse and abundant in the tropics, few tropical reptiles have been studied in this respect. We combine data from a long-term (10-year) mark–recapture study with genetic information (based on nine microsatellite markers) on slatey-grey snakes (Stegonotus cucullatus, Colubridae) in the Australian wet-dry tropics. Males attain larger body sizes than females, and both genetic and mark–recapture data show that males also disperse further than females. Recapture records show that hatchling males dispersed away from their release points whereas hatchling females did not, and adult males moved further than adult females. In the genetic analysis, males contributed less to overall FST and relatedness than did females (FSTm = 0.0025, FSTf = 0.0275, P < 0.001; rm = 0.0053; rf = 0.0550; P < 0.001). Spatial autocorrelation analyses within the largest population revealed a similar pattern, with spatial structuring stronger for females than males. Overall, our genetic analyses not only supported the mark–recapture data, but also extended our insights by revealing occasional long-distance dispersal not detected by the mark–recapture study.