Offspring-driven local dispersal in female sand lizards (Lacerta agilis)


Mats Olsson, Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.
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We report on a field study in which determinants of female breeding dispersal (i.e. the shift in the mean home range coordinates between successive breeding events) was investigated. Offspring were released in full sib groups (or half sib ones if there was within-clutch multiple paternity) at a separation distance from the females that varied between ‘families’. This allowed for analysis of ‘offspring nearness’ effects on maternal dispersal. When a female's offspring were released more closely to her, she responded with greater dispersal. Furthermore, when the data set was truncated at 100 m maternal–offspring separation distance at offspring release (because perception at longer distances is likely to be unrealistic), maternal dispersal resulted in greater separation distance between female and offspring in the following year. A corresponding analysis for juveniles revealed no effect of maternal nearness on offspring dispersal but identified a significant effect of clutch size, to our surprise with dispersal declining with increasing clutch size. We discuss this result in a context of the ‘public information hypothesis’ (reinterpreted for juveniles in a nonsocial foraging species), suggesting that conspecific abundance perhaps acts as an indicator of local habitat quality. Thus, our analysis suggests a microgeographic structuring of the adult female population driven by genetic factors, either through inbreeding avoidance, or from simply avoiding individuals with a similar genotype regardless of their pedigree relatedness, while a nongenetic factor seems more important in their offspring.