Social and thermal cues influence nest-site selection in a nocturnal gecko, Oedura lesueurii

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Journal Article
Ethology, 2011, 117 (9), pp. 796 - 801
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In oviparous species lacking parental care, successful reproduction depends on females selecting nest sites that facilitate embryonic development. Such sites may be limited in the environment, which can lead to multiple females using the same nest site simultaneously. However, there are several alternative explanations for communal nesting, including natal homing, predator satiation, and adaptive benefits to offspring. We used laboratory experiments to evaluate three hypotheses about nest-site selection in velvet geckos (Oedura lesueurii), which often nest communally. We investigated whether the trend to nest communally is influenced by the following: (1) evidence of previous nesting (hatched eggshells); (2) body size; and/or (3) thermal regimes. When given the choice, females laid their eggs in shelters containing hatched eggshells rather than in empty shelters, and this was not influenced by body size. Females selected nest sites that were cooler than their own mean selected body temperatures, suggesting that thermal requirements of their developing embryos could outweigh their own thermoregulatory preferences. Field observations of natal homing and high predation rates on gravid females suggest that imprinting on nest sites and/or predator swamping also play roles in communal nesting. Collectively, our results suggest that female velvet geckos use multiple cues to select appropriate nest sites, and hence that multiple mechanisms result in communal nesting behavior in this species. © 2011 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.
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