Experimental analysis of retreat-site selection by thick-tailed geckos Nephrurus milii

Bansi Shah, Richard Shine*, Simon Hudson, Michael Kearney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Although animals use habitats non-randomly in the wild, complex correlations among environmental features mean that proximate influences on habitat selection can be identified only by experimental manipulation of potential cues. Thick-tailed geckos Nephrurus milii are large lizards that are widely distributed through southern Australia.These nocturnally active animals typically spend daylight hours under surface rocks. We presented captive geckos with alternative retreat-sites (rock crevices) differing in attributes potentially relevant to habitat selection.The lizards showed strong preference for shelter-sites that enhanced thermoregulation (warm rather than cool) and that reduced the animal's vulnerability to predators (narrow crevices with small openings and not containing the scent of a predatory snake). Horizontal rather than sloping crevices were also preferred. Overall crevice size and thickness of the overlying rock did not influence retreat-site selection in the laboratory, but could be important in the field because of their influence on thermal regimes under rocks. The present study supports the idea that nocturnal reptiles base their selection of diurnal shelters on multiple aspects related to the fitness consequences of occupancy of alternative available retreat-sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-552
Number of pages6
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Gecko
  • Habitat selection
  • Nephrurus milii
  • Retreat-site selection
  • Thick-tailed gecko


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