Morphology and burrowing energetics of semi-fossorial skinks (Liopholis spp.)

Wu, Nicholas C., Alton, Lesley A., Clemente, Christofer J., Kearney, Michael R. and White, Craig R. (2015) Morphology and burrowing energetics of semi-fossorial skinks (Liopholis spp.). Journal of Experimental Biology, 218 15: 2416-2426. doi:10.1242/jeb.113803

Author Wu, Nicholas C.
Alton, Lesley A.
Clemente, Christofer J.
Kearney, Michael R.
White, Craig R.
Title Morphology and burrowing energetics of semi-fossorial skinks (Liopholis spp.)
Formatted title
Morphology and burrowing energetics of semi-fossorial skinks (Liopholis spp.)
Journal name Journal of Experimental Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0949
Publication date 2015-08
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1242/jeb.113803
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 218
Issue 15
Start page 2416
End page 2426
Total pages 11
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher The Company of Biologists
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Burrowing is an important form of locomotion in reptiles, but no study has examined the energetic cost of burrowing for reptiles. This is significant because burrowing is the most energetically expensive mode of locomotion undertaken by animals and many burrowing species therefore show specialisations for their subterranean lifestyle. We examined the effect of temperature and substrate characteristics (coarse sand or fine sand) on the net energetic cost of burrowing (NCOB) and burrowing rate in two species of the Egernia group of skinks (Liopholis striata and Liopholis inornata) compared with other burrowing animals. We further tested for morphological specialisations among burrowing species by comparing the relationship between body shape and retreat preference in Egernia group skinks. For L. striata and L. inornata, NCOB is 350 times more expensive than the predicted cost of pedestrian terrestrial locomotion. Temperature had a positive effect on burrowing rate for both species, and a negative effect on NCOB for L. striata but not L. inornata. Both NCOB and burrowing rate were independent of substrate type. Burrows constructed by skinks had a smaller cross-sectional area than those constructed by mammals of comparable mass, and NCOB of skinks was lower than that of mammals of similar mass. After accounting for body size, retreat preference was significantly correlated with body shape in Egernia group skinks. Species of Egernia group skinks that use burrows for retreats have narrower bodies and shorter front limbs than other species. We conclude that the morphological specialisations of burrowing skinks allow them to construct relatively narrow burrows, thereby reducing NCOB and the total cost of constructing their burrow retreats.
Keyword Egernia
Cost of burrowing
Locomotion energetics
Metabolic rate
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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