Terrestrial activity, movements and spatial ecology of an Australian freshwater turtle, Chelodina longicollis, in a temporally dynamic wetland system

John H. Roe, Arthur Georges

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Animal movements, use of space, activity patterns and habitat use are in part determined by proximal factors such as the landscapes they occupy, seasonal or environmental cues and individual attributes such as sex and body size. Using radio-telemetry and a drift fence, we examined the contribution of these factors to variation in movements, use of space and terrestrial activity in a freshwater turtle, Chelodina longicollis (Testudines: Chelidae), in south-east Australia. Movements and use of space depended strongly on landscape attributes, while sex and body size were less important. Movements and use of space also varied seasonally and were partly correlated with rainfall. The high overall vagility of turtles, irrespective of sex and adult body size (13.8 ± 2.8 ha (±SE) home range, 2608 ± 305 m total distance moved, 757 ± 76 m range length), probably reflects a common need to be mobile in a landscape characterized by fluctuating resources in temporary wetlands. Use of temporary wetlands also drives C. longicollis into terrestrial habitats for movements between wetlands and extended refuge. Timing of inter-wetland movements was associated with rainfall, but most notably for immature individuals and for those moving towards temporary wetlands. Movements of adults, evacuation of the drying wetland and periods of extended refuge (i.e. aestivation) were less dependent upon rainfall if at all. We conclude that movements about and use of the landscape by C. longicollis are under the strong influence of several interacting factors such as patch configuration, seasonal and environmental cues, and in part, body size. We argue that such behaviours are also ultimately under selection from the costs and benefits of these behaviours in the context of fluctuating resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1056
Number of pages12
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008


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