Personality, spatiotemporal ecological variation and resident/explorer movement syndromes in the sleepy lizard

Marcus Michelangeli, Eric Payne, Orr Spiegel, David L. Sinn, Stephan T. Leu, Michael G. Gardner, Andrew Sih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Individual variation in movement is profoundly important for fitness and offers key insights into the spatial and temporal dynamics of populations and communities. Nonetheless, individual variation in fine-scale movement behaviours is rarely examined even though animal tracking devices offer the long-term, high-resolution, repeatable data in natural conditions that are ideal for studying this variation. Furthermore, of the few studies that consider individual variation in movement, even fewer also consider the internal traits and environmental factors that drive movement behaviour which are necessary for contextualising individual differences in movement patterns. In this study, we GPS tracked a free-ranging population of sleepy lizards Tiliqua rugosa, each Austral spring over 5 years to examine consistent among-individual variation in movement patterns, as well as how these differences were mediated by key internal and ecological factors. We found that individuals consistently differed in a suite of weekly movement traits, and that these traits strongly covaried among-individuals, forming movement syndromes. Lizards fell on a primary movement continuum, from ‘residents’ that spent extended periods of time residing within smaller core areas of their home range, to ‘explorers’ that moved greater distances and explored vaster areas of the environment. Importantly, we also found that these consistent differences in lizard movement were related to two ecologically important animal personality traits (boldness and aggression), their sex, key features of the environment (including food availability, and a key water resource), habitat type and seasonal variation (cool/moist vs. hot/drier) in environmental conditions. Broadly, these movement specialisations likely reflect variation in life-history tactics including foraging and mating tactics that ultimately underlie key differences in space use. Such information can be used to connect phenotypic population structure to key ecological and evolutionary processes, for example social networks and disease-transmission pathways, further highlighting the value of examining individual variation in movement behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-223
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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