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The platypus nesting burrow, where females lay eggs and rear their young, has not been well studied. We have little knowledge of its structure and the process of construction. This study aimed to investigate nesting behaviour of breeding females and to describe the structure and features of the burrow. We used infrared cameras to record behaviour of captive breeding female platypuses during the nest-building period, over nine years. After the young had become independent, we excavated 11 nesting burrows and mapped their structural features. Nesting behaviour was observed 7–15 days after mating and was an indicator of gravidity. Females invested an average of 8 h 18 min over 3.5 nights, gathering and transporting wet nesting material to their burrows. The nests were composed mostly of native mat-rush leaves. Nesting burrows varied in length from 3.2 to 10.4 m. They contained narrow tunnels, ‘pugs’ of backfilled earth, dead ends, multiple entrances and a chamber at the end that contained the nest. Appropriate nesting sites and nesting materials must be provided to female platypuses for captive breeding programs to succeed.
Woolley’s Pseudantechinus, P. woolleyae, has remained virtually unstudied in the 30 years since its recognition in 1988 as a species distinct from P. macdonnellensis. It has a wide distribution in arid regions of Western Australia. What little is known of its biology comes largely from studies carried out over the years 1988–91 on one wild-caught female and her offspring, and a few specimens held in the collection of the Western Australian Museum. P. woolleyae is a seasonal breeder and young are born from late July to early October. They mature when ∼7 months old. Both males and females are potentially capable of breeding in more than one year. Males have accessory erectile tissue that does not form an appendage on the penis.
Rotational logging practices are used with the goal of reducing forest disturbance impacts on biodiversity. However, it is poorly understood whether such forest management practices conserve the demographic and genetic composition of animal populations across logged landscapes. Here we investigated whether rotational logging practices alter patterns of landscape-scale population abundance and genetic diversity of a forest-dwelling lizard (Eulamprus heatwolei) in south-eastern Australia. We sampled lizards (n = 407) at up to 48 sites across a chronosequence of logging disturbance intervals (<10 to >60 years after logging) to assess site-specific population changes and genetic diversity parameters. Lizard abundances exhibited a significant curvilinear response to time since logging, with decreased numbers following logging (<10 years), increased abundance as the forest regenerated (10–20 years), before decreasing again in older regenerated forest sites (>30 years). Lizard genetic diversity parameters were not significantly influenced by logging disturbance. These results suggest that logging practices, whilst inducing short-term changes to population abundance, had no measurable effects on the landscape-scale genetic diversity of E. heatwolei. These results are important as they demonstrate the value of monitoring for evaluating forest management efficacy, and the use of different population-level markers to make stronger inference about the potential impacts of logging activities.
Knowledge of trophic ecology is fundamental for understanding feeding strategies and niche dynamics, which can provide information on the vulnerability and conservation status of some poorly known species, such as Liolaemus monticola, a rock-dwelling lizard endemic to the central Andes of Chile. We studied its trophic ecology, analysing its diet and the availability of prey during three activity seasons (summer, autumn and spring). The results show that L. monticola is insectivorous, preying on epigean arthropods. The most frequent prey is formicid ants, on which it feeds in a greater proportion than that at which they occur in the environment. The annual diet is less variable than the seasonal fluctuations in the abundance of prey in the environment. We conclude that L. monticola is a trophic specialist with a preference for the ants Camponotus morosus, Araucomyrmex hypocritus and Brachymyrmex giardii. This diet presupposes an equilibrium between the relative toxicity of the ants, the energy cost of dealing with the prey and detoxification.
A nationwide survey was conducted for ticks (Ixodidae) removed from echidnas, Tachyglossus aculeatus (Shaw, 1792), that had been previously collected between 1928 and 2013, and archived within Australian national (Australian National Insect Collection, Australian Capital Territory) and state (Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia) natural history collections. A total of 850 ticks from 89 T. aculeatus hosts were morphologically identified to determine instar, sex and species. Seven larvae, 349 nymphs and 494 adults were identified; 235 were female and 259 were male. The most common tick species was Bothriocroton concolor (Neumann, 1899) (89.2%). In addition, ticks previously recorded from T. aculeatus were identified, including Amblyomma australiense Neumann, 1905 (1.8%), Amblyomma echidnae Roberts, 1953 (0.1%), Bothriocroton hydrosauri (Denny, 1843) (1.4%), Bothriocroton tachyglossi (Roberts, 1953) (1.5%) and Ixodes tasmani Neumann, 1899 (1.2%). For the first time, 22 Amblyomma fimbriatum Koch, 1844 (2.6%) and 19 Amblyomma triguttatum Koch, 1844 (2.2%) ticks were recorded from T. aculeatus. This is the first survey to utilise archived Australian tick collections for the purpose of acquiring new data on tick species that parasitise T. aculeatus.
Biologists have traditionally been reluctant to study arboreal snakes due to low rates of capture. Overlooking such taxa can mislead interpretations of population trends for data-deficient species. We used regularly spaced transect searches and standard capture–mark–recapture techniques to describe population structure, growth rates, survival and capture probability in a population of the pale-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bitorquatus) in southern Queensland. We obtained data from 194 captures of 113 individual snakes between 2009 and 2015. Using the Cormack–Jolly–Seber method, we estimated apparent annual survival in subadult snakes at 0.23 ± 0.01 (s.e.) and 0.81 ± 0.08 for adults. Capture probability was estimated at 0.16 ± 0.14 per session in subadult snakes and 0.33 ± 0.06 for adults. Within the red gum forests of our study site, we estimate pale-headed snake density at ∼13 ± 7 ha–1. Using von Bertalanffy growth modelling, we predict that snakes reach sexual maturity after about four years and may live for up to 20. Our results suggest that the species is a ‘k’ strategist, characterised by slow maturation and low fecundity. These traits suggest that populations will recover slowly following decline, exacerbating the risk of local extinction.
The eastern pygmy-possum (Cercartetus nanus) has posed a challenge in attempts to describe its population density due to low rates of capture, preference for patchy habitats and periodic influxes of subadult individuals. We conducted a mark–recapture study of this species using a grid of nest boxes in a 9-ha patch of banksia heath–woodland. We captured 54 adults across the two years of our study. We estimated the density of adult pygmy-possums to be 1.5–4.2 ha–1 from different population models. This is substantially lower than previous estimates in equivalent habitat because we focussed on adults and recognised that they were not confined to the area bounded by our grid. We captured 36 subadults over the two years but they could not be reliably modelled due to extremely low recapture rates, which reflect high rates of dispersal and also mortality. For this reason, only the number of adults should be used to characterise populations of this species. Further study is required to investigate population dynamics over time and to describe the density of eastern pygmy-possums in other habitats.
The lace monitor (Varanus varius) is a carnivorous scavenger that inhabits lowland forests and coastlines throughout south-eastern Australia. Here we used global positioning system (GPS) devices to remotely monitor adult lace monitor behaviour across two summer seasons in a coastal habitat adjacent to a sea turtle nesting beach at Wreck Rock, Queensland, Australia. GPS tracking showed that lace monitors spent most of their time in woodland habitat away from the seafront dune areas. Both adult males and females occupied relatively large home ranges (0.005 to 1.467 km2 calculated by the Kernel Brownian Bridge method) and individual home ranges overlapped each other to a large extent. The space use patterns of individual lace monitors could be classified as ‘linear’ or ‘clumped’, indicating plasticity in this species’ movement behaviour. Because lace monitors rarely visited the frontal dune area where sea turtles nest, they do not pose a significant threat to sea turtle nests.
Locating and protecting climate change refugia is important to conserving biodiversity with accelerating climate change. Comparative phylogeographic analysis provides an effective tool for locating such refugia, as long-term retention of one or more populations within a refugial landscape will generate unique genetic lineages. The ranges of the western Gulf region of northern Australia are thought to represent a significant arid-zone refugium, in which case low-dispersal organisms should have strong phylogeographic structure across the region. To test for this, we conducted extensive sampling of three species of Gehyra geckos and analysed diversity for mitochondrial DNA and eight nuclear loci. These analyses revealed congruent and high phylogeographic diversity, especially, but not exclusively, in rock-restricted species. This finding, and other recent phylogeographic evidence, demonstrates that these topographically variable landforms have enabled persistence of ecologically diverse vertebrate species through the climate changes of the late Pleistocene. Identification of this relatively under-protected region as a significant climate change refugium points to the need to expand protected areas in this region and to invest in ecological management across existing National Parks and Indigenous Protected Areas.