When the going gets tough: Behavioural type-dependent space use in the sleepy lizard changes as the season dries

Orr Spiegel*, Stephan T. Leu, Andrew Sih, Stephanie S. Godfrey, C. Michael Bull

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Understanding space use remains a major challenge for animal ecology, with implications for species interactions, disease spread, and conservation. Behavioural type (BT) may shape the space use of individuals within animal populations. Bolder or more aggressive individuals tend to be more exploratory and disperse further. Yet, to date we have limited knowledge on how space use other than dispersal depends on BT. To address this question we studied BT-dependent space-use patterns of sleepy lizards (Tiliqua rugosa) in southern Australia. We combined high-resolution global positioning system (GPS) tracking of 72 free-ranging lizards with repeated behavioural assays, and with a survey of the spatial distributions of their food and refuge resources. Bayesian generalized linear mixed models (GLMM) showed that lizards responded to the spatial distribution of resources at the neighbourhood scale and to the intensity of space use by other conspecifics (showing apparent conspecific avoidance). BT (especially aggressiveness) affected space use by lizards and their response to ecological and social factors, in a seasonally dependent manner. Many of these effects and interactions were stronger later in the season when food became scarce and environmental conditions got tougher. For example, refuge and food availability became more important later in the season and unaggressive lizards were more responsive to these predictors. These findings highlight a commonly overlooked source of heterogeneity in animal space use and improve our mechanistic understanding of processes leading to behaviourally driven disease dynamics and social structure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20151768
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1819
StatePublished - 25 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
National Science FoundationDEB-1456730


    • Animal personality
    • Bayesian generalized linear mixed models (GLMM)
    • Behavioural syndromes
    • Global positioning system (GPS)- telemetry
    • Movement ecology
    • Spatial ecology


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