Identifying the time scale of synchronous movement: a study on tropical snakes

Tom Lindström*, Benjamin L. Phillips, Gregory P. Brown, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Individual movement is critical to organismal fitness and also influences broader population processes such as demographic stochasticity and gene flow. Climatic change and habitat fragmentation render the drivers of individual movement especially critical to understand. Rates of movement of free-ranging animals through the landscape are influenced both by intrinsic attributes of an organism (e.g., size, body condition, age), and by external forces (e.g., weather, predation risk). Statistical modelling can clarify the relative importance of those processes, because externally-imposed pressures should generate synchronous displacements among individuals within a population, whereas intrinsic factors should generate consistency through time within each individual. External and intrinsic factors may vary in importance at different time scales. 

Results: In this study we focused on daily displacement of an ambush-foraging snake from tropical Australia (the Northern Death Adder Acanthophis praelongus), based on a radiotelemetric study. We used a mixture of spectral representation and Bayesian inference to study synchrony in snake displacement by phase shift analysis. We further studied autocorrelation in fluctuations of displacement distances as "one over f noise". Displacement distances were positively autocorrelated with all considered noise colour parameters estimated as >0. We show how the methodology can reveal time scales of particular interest for synchrony and found that for the analysed data, synchrony was only present at time scales above approximately three weeks. 

Conclusion: We conclude that the spectral representation combined with Bayesian inference is a promising approach for analysis of movement data. Applying the framework to telemetry data of A. praelongus, we were able to identify a cut-off time scale above which we found support for synchrony, thus revealing a time scale where global external drivers have a larger impact on the movement behaviour. Our results suggest that for the considered study period, movement at shorter time scales was primarily driven by factors at the individual level; daily fluctuations in weather conditions had little effect on snake movement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Number of pages9
JournalMovement Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • periodogram
  • hierarchical Bayes
  • relocation data
  • elapidae
  • ectotherms


Dive into the research topics of 'Identifying the time scale of synchronous movement: a study on tropical snakes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this