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Reduced access to olfactory cues and home-range maintenance in the sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa)

Authors

  • I. Zuri,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia, G.P.O. Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia
      All correspondence to: Dr Ido Zuri, Department of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv, 69978, Israel. E-mail: idozuri@netvision.net.il
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  • C. M. Bull

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia, G.P.O. Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia
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All correspondence to: Dr Ido Zuri, Department of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv, 69978, Israel. E-mail: idozuri@netvision.net.il

Abstract

Sleepy lizards Tiliqua rugosa are large, long-lived, Australian skinks that live in stable home ranges. Previous studies showed that the lizards have a good sense of orientation and navigation towards home. However, since they are active only 4 months in every year, there is a question about which environmental cues enable them to locate their home boundaries. In the present study we determined whether surrounding olfactory and chemical cues are important for the sleepy lizards for home-range maintenance. In the first part of the study we showed in the laboratory that zinc sulphate (ZnSO4) is a chemical that induces anosmia and prevents detection of chemical cues in sleepy lizards for up to 30 days, with no evident long-term harm to the animals. We then monitored the location of 50 radio-tagged sleepy lizards. After determining their home ranges they were divided into three groups: an untreated control, a saline-treated (sham-operated) group and a ZnSO4-treated group. Starting 2 days after the treatment, the home ranges of all lizards were re-determined within the period that ZnSO4 blocked olfaction. Three variables were calculated comparing home ranges before and after treatments: the change in home-range size, the distance between the centre of activities of the lizards, and the overlap between the individual home ranges before and after treatments. Lizard home ranges varied from 1.9 ± 0.6 ha to 4.6 ± 1.4 ha before treatment, and 1.3 ± 0.3 ha to 3.1 ± 0.7 ha after treatment. There was no significant effect of treatments or of sex on the home-range size or on the distances between the centre of activities, or on the overlap between the individual home ranges. Our data indicate that olfaction and vomerolfaction are not a major cue for home-range maintenance in the sleepy lizards.

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