The impact of tick parasites on the behaviour of the lizard Tiliqua rugosa


Populations of the Australian sleepy lizard, Tiliqua rugosa, near Mt. Mary, South Australia carry natural infestations of two tick species Aponomma hydrosauri and Amblyomma limbatum. In field experiments at two sites, 18 km apart, lizards with experimentally increased tick loads had smaller home ranges, moved shorter distances in a day, and were found basking more but moving less often than lizards from which ticks were experimentally removed. The results were consistent for adult lizards in two years, and for sub-adults in a third year. Laboratory trials showed that juvenile lizards that had tick infestations had lower sprint speeds than uninfested siblings, and that adults with tick infestations had less endurance than those that were uninfested. The results contrast with those of a previous survey that showed that lizards with high tick loads had greater body size and remained longer at a site, but indicate that there may be a balance, for lizards, between the fitness advantages in occupying habitats with high-quality resources, and the costs from parasites that also prefer those habitats.

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Received: 02 March 1999 / Accepted: 07 October 1999

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Main, A., Bull, C. The impact of tick parasites on the behaviour of the lizard Tiliqua rugosa . Oecologia 122, 574–581 (2000).

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  • Key words Lizards
  • Ticks
  • Home range
  • Sprint speed
  • Parasite-host interaction