Lizards cooperatively tunnel to construct a long-term home for family members

Steve McAlpin, Paul Duckett, Adam Stow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Constructing a home to protect offspring while they mature is common in many vertebrate groups, but has not previously been reported in lizards. Here we provide the first example of a lizard that constructs a long-term home for family members, and a rare case of lizards behaving cooperatively. The great desert skink, Liopholis kintorei from Central Australia, constructs an elaborate multi-tunnelled burrow that can be continuously occupied for up to 7 years. Multiple generations participate in construction and maintenance of burrows. Parental assignments based on DNA analysis show that immature individuals within the same burrow were mostly full siblings, even when several age cohorts were present. Parents were always captured at burrows containing their offspring, and females were only detected breeding with the same male both within- and across seasons. Consequently, the individual investments made to construct or maintain a burrow system benefit their own offspring, or siblings, over several breeding seasons.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere19041
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume6
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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