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Sex differences in activity and movements in the pig-nosed turtle, Carettochelys insculpta, in the wet-dry tropics of Australia

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J. Sean Doody

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Dry season movement patterns, home ranges, and activity was studied in a population of pig-nosed turtles (Carettochelys insculpta) in the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia. Compared to other turtles inhabiting lotic habitats, C. insculpta occupied considerably larger home ranges, covering up to 10 km of river. Of previously published factors influencing home range size, low productivity of the (micro) habitat may best explain the extensive home ranges in C. insculpta. Patchiness and low nutrient value of the chief food (aquatic vegetation) of C. insculpta may force turtles to cover large expanses of river to acquire sufficient energy for growth and reproduction. Females were more active, moved farther, and occupied larger home ranges than males. Home ranges of females comprised 1-4 activity centers, many of which were associated with thermal springs. We suggest that females may exhibit increased activity and movements relative to males because of sexual inequality in parental investment, where food is particularly limiting (e.g., in species with biennial reproduction). Biennial reproduction in the population allowed the examination of the influence of reproductive condition on home range size, movements, and activity. Reproductive condition did not influence home range or activity, but gravid turtles moved father between successive sightings than nongravid females. Individual data corroborate these findings, with females moving farther between successive sightings while gravid compared to while spent. Contrary to previous reports, turtles did not appear to move into estuarine areas or lowland floodplains dining the wet season but moved into the riparian forest and possibly into wetlands adjacent to the main channel in the vicinity of their dry season home ranges.


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