Pattern in the Compass Orientation of Gopher Tortoise Burrows at Different Spatial Scales

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burrow, compass orientation, Florida, gopher tortoise, spatial scale

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Individuals of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus (Daudin)) seem not to orient their burrows in particular directions, within populations, except where topographic relief influences them to do so. This result suggests that burrow orientation pattern might be expressed on a scale larger than that of the individual population, one that encompasses regularities in topographic relief. We determined the orientations of more than 3,500 gopher tortoise burrows throughout Florida. These burrows tend to be oriented more often in the primary (E, S, W, N) compass directions than in the secondary (NE, SE, SW, NW) directions. We suggest that the best explanation for this finding is that the man-made and natural topographic features in Florida that influence orientation are themselves often oriented in the primary compass directions. Burrow orientation pattern in the gopher tortoise appears to be expressed on a relatively-large scale.

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Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters, v. 3, no. 2, p. 33-40