Age- and sex-related differences in the spatial ecology of a dichromatic tropical python (Morelia viridis)



Abstract:  Despite outnumbering their temperate counterparts, tropical snake species have been poorly studied. Yet, the few tropical species that have been studied show a variety of behavioural traits beyond those described in temperate species. Here we reveal both age and sexual differences in the movements of tropical green pythons (Morelia viridis: Pythonidae). We radio-tracked 27 individuals (17 females and 10 males) for up to 18 months, locating individuals during both the day and night. The home range size for adult females (mean ± SE of 6.21 ± 1.85 ha) was correlated with snout–vent length. Neither adult males nor juveniles had a stable home range. Adult females had stable home ranges that overlapped considerably with those of other females and yellow individuals. Multiple radio-tracked adult males passed through the territory of radio-tracked adult females during the study. Females of all sizes were more likely to change position each day than males. There were no differences between the sexes or size categories in the distances moved in most months, although the variation in movement distances was higher in the dry season than during the wet season. In the wet season (January–March) movement distances increased and these were size- and sex-related. This increased activity may be associated with mate searching. Males of M. viridis may maximize their rate of encountering mature females by roaming rather than maintaining a home range. Juvenile green pythons moved distances equal to adult snakes in most months despite their comparatively small size.