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Evolutionary correlations between escape behaviour and performance ability in eight species of snow skinks (Niveoscincus: Lygosominae) from Tasmania


Melville, J and Swain, R, Evolutionary correlations between escape behaviour and performance ability in eight species of snow skinks (Niveoscincus: Lygosominae) from Tasmania, Journal of Zoology, 261 pp. 79-89. ISSN 0952-8369 (2003) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1017/S0952836903003984


Three locomotor modes were examined (sprinting, jumping and climbing) in eight species of skinks: seven Niveoscincus spp. and Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii. These species formed four distinct ecological types: ground-dwelling, arboreal, heath/rock dwelling, and saxicolous. Significant behavioural preferences for particular escape modes in the field were found, which reflected the performance capabilities at an animal in the laboratory. This study used both non-phylogenetic and evolutionary based analyses to demonstrate that species occupying different microhabitats and using different escape tactics exhibit corresponding differences in performance abilities. Four Niveoscincus species are specialized in performance abilities and behavioural responses (N. greeni, N. ocellatus, N. pretiosus, N. orocryptus) by excelling in some performance abilities but having behavioural restrictions at attemping other locomotor modes. Only N. microlepidotus and N. orocryptus used escape tactics opportunistically; these species possess a suite of behavioural responses that may reflect the wide range of microhabitats they occupy. Ground-dwelling species N. metallicus, N. coventryi and Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii performed poorly at all performance abilities and seemed to have biomechanical limitations, rather than behavioural restrictions, on locomotor mode. Thus, when making interspecific comparisons, the behaviour of an animal needs to be considered before appropriate performance measures are selected. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that escape tactics and performance abilities have co-evolved in Niveoscincus, with an evolutionary trend towards behavioural and locomotor specialization.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Evolutionary biology
Research Field:Evolutionary biology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Melville, J (Ms Melville)
UTAS Author:Swain, R (Dr Roy Swain)
ID Code:28551
Year Published:2003
Web of Science® Times Cited:22
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2003-08-01
Last Modified:2011-11-18

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