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Open Access Research article

The importance of habitat resistance for movement decisions in the common lizard, Lacerta vivipara

Susanne RK Zajitschek12*, Felix Zajitschek13 and Jean Clobert1

Author Affiliations

1 Station d'Ecologie Expérimentale du CNRS a Moulis, USR 2936, 09200, Moulis, France

2 Department of Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, 752 36, Uppsala, Sweden

3 Department of Animal Ecology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, 752 36, Uppsala, Sweden

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BMC Ecology 2012, 12:13  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-12-13

Published: 24 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Movement behaviour can be influenced by a multitude of biotic and abiotic factors. Here, we investigate the speed of movement in relation to environmental and individual phenotypic properties in subadult common lizards (Lacerta vivipara). We aim to disentangle the importance of substrate, cover, humidity, basking opportunity and individual phenotype on moving tendencies in 12 treatment combinations, at which each lizard was tested.

Results

We find that movement behaviour depends on the starting conditions, the physical properties of the dispersal corridor, and on the individuals’ phenotype. Specifically, the presence of cover and substrate providing suitable traction in the corridor had positive effects on individual movement decisions. Additionally, we find high phenotypic variation in the propensity to move dependent on the presence of cover. Individual back patterns also strongly affected movement decisions in interaction with the physical properties of the dispersal corridor.

Conclusions

Our results highlight the importance of understanding the habitat resistance for movement patterns, with humid habitats with covering vegetation providing the best conditions to initiate movement in the common lizard. In addition, population effects, differences in back pattern phenotype and individual plasticity were identified as key parameters influencing movement behaviour.

Keywords:
Behaviour; Connectivity; Cover; Dispersal; Exploration; Humidity; Lacertidae; Light; Lizards; Personality; Phenotypic plasticity; Substrate; Temperature; Zootoca