Going underground: short- and long-term movements may reveal the fossorial spatial ecology of an amphisbaenian

José Martín, Jesús Ortega, Roberto García-Roa, Octavio Jiménez-Robles, Gonzalo Rodríguez-Ruiz, Pablo Recio, José Javier Cuervo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: The movement and spatial ecology of an animal depends on its morphological and functional adaptations to its environment. In fossorial animals, adaptations to the underground life help to face peculiar ecological challenges, very different from those of epigeal species, but may constrain their movement ability. Methods: We made a long-term capture-recapture study of the strictly fossorial amphisbaenian reptile Trogonophis wiegmanni to analyze its long-term movement patterns. We also used passive integrated transponder (PIT) telemetry to detect and follow undisturbed individuals underground, obtaining data of their short-term movement patterns. Results: Amphisbaenians showed a high site fidelity, moving short distances and over small areas, and spending some days without any noticeable movement, even under favorable conditions. We also found differences in movements between sexes and age classes. Conclusions: This movement and spatial strategy can be related to the energetic constrains of underground burrowing, or to the low metabolic requirements of fossorial reptiles, as distances and areas covered were much smaller than for epigeal reptiles of similar size. Individual differences probably reflect differential reproductive and social requirements of males and females, and that younger individuals might show more floating behavior until they can settle in a territory. This study is a rare example describing the movement ecology of a fossorial species and may contribute to the general understanding of the factors that affect space use and movement decisions in animals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14
JournalMovement Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Amphisbaenians
  • Fossorial reptiles
  • Movement patterns
  • PIT tag telemetry
  • Space use
  • Trogonophis wiegmanni

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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