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Physiological benefits as precursors of sociality: why banded geckos band

By Jennifer R. Lancaster, Paul Wilson and Robert E. Espinoza


Aggregating has been widely studied in a variety of animals and found to have important benefits in terms of sociality, courtship, predator avoidance and physiology. Several species of nocturnal geckos form diurnal aggregations; however, little is known about the benefits of these groupings. We conducted a series of experiments to determine the benefit of aggregation for the desert-dwelling western banded gecko, Coleonyx variegatus. We found that banded geckos benefit from aggregation by a reduction in evaporative water loss (EWL). No social or mating benefits were detected, and geckos did not group to avoid predators. Geckos did not select diurnal retreat sites based solely on the scent of conspecifics, although they aggregated readily when conspecifics were present. Thus, C. variegatus appear to achieve physiological but not social benefits from grouping. Banded geckos belong to an ancestrally tropical lineage whose descendants invaded present-day North American deserts at a time when these regions were more mesic. This may explain their relatively high rate of EWL. Aggregating seems to be a solution to this physiological handicap. Our study also suggests a path for the evolution of social behaviour: as animals aggregate for physiological benefits, the stage is set for the evolution of more complex social interactions. Ó 2006 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. The formation of social aggregations is widespread in animals and can have important reproductive, ecological and fitness implications (Boersma 1982; Cohen & Alford 1996; Avilés & Turfiño 1998; Caro 1998). Some species aggregate to mitigate physiological stresses imposed by their abiotic environment, such as low moisture availability (e.g. Cohen & Alford 1996) or thermal extremes (e.g

Topics: An initial step in the evolution of social
Year: 2009
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