The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

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pdf 07. Dominance or territoriality The colonisation of temporary lagoons by Caiman crocodilus

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Open Access

pp.514-521

Authors: Carlos Drews

Abstract: The behaviour of 51 individually known spectacled caimans ( Caiman crocodilus) was studied in the Llanos savannahs during the first half of the rainy season. At the onset of the rains caimans left their dry season refuge. a permanent pond. to colonise the appearing temporary lagoons. Caimans less than one year old did not leave the  pond. Despite reports of territoriality in this species. no indication of territorial behaviour was found during the colonisation of lagoons. Ninety per cent of the caimans were nomadic. Their movements between water bodies included the permanent pond. Residence in a study lagoon was up to one week long and was followed by prolonged periods of absence. During their residence time in the lagoon. some caimans showed site fidelity. others did not. There was considerable overlap of caiman ranges in the lagoon. but caimans showed spacing behaviour when simultaneously in the water. Priority of access to resources in caimans and other crocodilians is apparently determined by the body size of competitors and not by the site of agonistic encounters. It is argued that the social
behaviour of crocodilians is characterised by an absolute dominance hierarchy based on body size. rather than territoriality.

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