Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stay-at-home parents make for a cooperative family of lizards

Date:
May 12, 2011
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
The great desert burrowing skink, a lizard living on the sandy plains of Central Australia, has been discovered to live in family groups within elaborately constructed tunnel complexes.

The great desert burrowing skink, a lizard living on the sandy plains of Central Australia, has been discovered to live in family groups within elaborately constructed tunnel complexes.

Published in PLoS ONE, researchers Steve McAlpin, Paul Duckett and Adam Stow from Macquarie University, in partnership with Parks Australia, found that family members of the great desert burrowing skink contribute to the construction and maintenance of burrow systems that can have up to 20 entrances, extend over 13 meters, and even have their own specifically located latrines.

That these social lizards invest in a long-term housing structure that benefits them, their offspring or siblings is unprecedented in a lizard and may provide a unique insight into the evolution of family groups and cooperation. According to the researchers, the faithful nature of adult pairs, which were found to breed together over consecutive years, is likely to be essential for this family cohesion, though they also observed that 40 percent of the male lizards had produced offspring with different females.

This work was carried out at Uluru -- Kata Tjuta National Park as part of Steve McAlpin's research for his Masters degree under the supervision of Dr Adam Stow. It has revealed fascinating life history traits of a lizard species that is listed as threatened. From over 5000 species of lizard worldwide, no other has been found to cooperate to construct a long-term home for their family members.

The shared home of the great desert skink, Liopholis kintorei, can be continuously occupied for up to 7 years. Multiple generations participate in construction and maintenance of burrows, with tunnels mostly excavated and maintained by adults, and immature lizards contributing small 'pop' holes to the network. Parental assignments based on DNA analysis show that immature individuals within the same burrow were mostly full siblings (all immature lizards were full siblings in 18 of 24 burrow systems), even when several age cohorts were present. Offspring were therefore delaying their dispersal to stay at home. Parents were always captured at burrows containing their offspring, and females were only detected breeding with the same male both within- and across seasons.

"For adults to invest so much in a home within which kids mature, it makes evolutionary sense that these adult individuals are sure that they are providing for their own offspring," says Dr. Adam Stow, Senior Lecturer in Biology at Macquarie University, New South Wales, Australia.

The construction and maintenance of a long-term family home occurs in many other taxa; in vertebrates there are examples from most phyla. Cooperative behaviours generally occur among related individuals, but mate fidelity is not common in lizard species, and this may explain the rarity of such social behaviour. Future work will further investigate the parental care that the great desert skink provides, the effort different individuals put into home making and identifying lazy siblings that might be shirking their home maintenance responsibilities, and how this is managed by other group members.

Funding and considerable in-kind support was provided by Parks Australia for all monitoring and the direct observations of lizard behaviour carried out at Uluru -- Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. Parks Australia designed the monitoring program for Liopholis kintorei; data for the monitoring program was collected by the first author under contract to Parks Australia. Macquarie University funded most of the collection and analysis of genetic material used in this study. This paper results from the partnership between Parks Australia and Macquarie University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Steve McAlpin, Paul Duckett, Adam Stow. Lizards Cooperatively Tunnel to Construct a Long-Term Home for Family Members. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (5): e19041 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019041

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Stay-at-home parents make for a cooperative family of lizards." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511170907.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2011, May 12). Stay-at-home parents make for a cooperative family of lizards. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511170907.htm
Public Library of Science. "Stay-at-home parents make for a cooperative family of lizards." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511170907.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins