The effect of group size on vigilance in a semi-solitary, fossorial marsupial (Lasiorhinus latifrons)

Descovich, Kristin A., Lisle, Allan T., Johnston, Stephen and Phillips, Clive J. C. (2013) The effect of group size on vigilance in a semi-solitary, fossorial marsupial (Lasiorhinus latifrons). Behavioural Processes, 100 208-213. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2013.09.015

Author Descovich, Kristin A.
Lisle, Allan T.
Johnston, Stephen
Phillips, Clive J. C.
Title The effect of group size on vigilance in a semi-solitary, fossorial marsupial (Lasiorhinus latifrons)
Journal name Behavioural Processes   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0376-6357
Publication date 2013
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.beproc.2013.09.015
Volume 100
Start page 208
End page 213
Total pages 6
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier BV
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Subject 1103 Clinical Sciences
2802 Behavioral Neuroscience
Abstract Prey species that congregate gain protection against predatory attacks and this advantage is often reflected by a reduction in vigilance behaviour by individuals in larger groups. Comparatively few studies have investigated vigilance in solitary animals, but those that have, found that vigilance increases as group size increases because of the threat posed by conspecifics and/or competition for resources. The southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) is a large fossorial, nocturnal marsupial that is neither strictly solitary nor gregarious, sharing warren systems with multiple conspecifics. We investigated the effects of conspecific presence on vigilance behaviour in this semi-solitary species. We observed wild-born, adult L. latifrons wombats in three group sizes (Large (1♂, 3♀), Medium (1♂, 2♀) and Small (1♂, 1♀)) in a captive, naturalistic environment that allowed above-ground and den behaviour monitoring. Vigilance behaviours were performed less frequently by wombats in large groups (e.g. scanning, counts/day, Large: 55, Medium: 69, Small: 115, P=0.002) and more frequently as the distance from their nearest conspecific increased (r64=0.30, P= 0.016). Vigilance within burrows was also affected by social influences, with solitary wombats significantly more vigilant than those denning with a conspecific (e.g. scanning: conspecific absent: 0.13/5min, present: 0.03/5min, P<0.0001). It is concluded that the presence of conspecifics reduces vigilance in L. latifrons wombats, even within burrows, and this may partially explain the occurrence of warren sharing in the wild.
Keyword Burrow
Group size
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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