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12 November 2019 A Low-Cost, Efficient, and Precise Technique to Quantify Key Life Cycle Events in Nests of Oviparous Reptiles
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Abstract

Phenological timing is of central interest to evolutionary ecologists because it is associated with fitness, but there has been limited study in animal groups with relatively secretive habits such as reptiles. This is especially true for the timing of hatchling behavior in wild reptile nests, likely attributable to few noninvasive methods for estimating parameters associated with egg hatching. We show that tri-axial accelerometers, small data loggers that measure rotation and inclination, can accurately quantify hatchling movement in wild reptile nests. In June 2018, we deployed an accelerometer in each of five freshly laid Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) nests in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. In September 2018, nests were visited once daily to quantify the timing of hatchling emergence. The accelerometers worked as expected: there was statistically significant correspondence between the timing of accelerometer rotation in the nest (caused by movement of the hatchlings) and the timing of hatchling emergence. Furthermore, the number of hatchlings emerging from a nest was strongly and significantly correlated with the extent of accelerometer displacement. Our new technique allows new types of phenological data to be collected. It requires minimal effort and financial investment and thus is accessible to a broad range of research programs.

Copyright 2019 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Njal Rollinson, Melanie D. Massey, Maya Meron, and Jessica A. Leivesley "A Low-Cost, Efficient, and Precise Technique to Quantify Key Life Cycle Events in Nests of Oviparous Reptiles," Journal of Herpetology 53(4), 302-309, (12 November 2019). https://doi.org/10.1670/18-168
Accepted: 5 August 2019; Published: 12 November 2019
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