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.

 ISSN 0268-0130

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pdf 01. Micro-geographic variation in burrow use of Agassiz’s desert tortoises in the Sonoran Desert of California


Open Access

pp. 177-188

Authors: Kristy L. Cummings, Jeffrey E. Lovich, Shellie R. Puffer, Terence R. Arundel & Kathleen D. Brundige

Abstract: Little has been published regarding the burrowing habits of Agassiz’s desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) in the Sonoran Desert of California. We monitored the interactions of tortoises with their burrows, and other tortoises, via radio-telemetry at two nearby sites between the Cottonwood and Orocopia Mountains, from 2015-2018. We examined how annual cycles of drought and non-drought years, behaviourally affected how tortoises use their burrows (i.e., burrow fidelity, cohabitation,
and location), including the timing of the tortoise brumation period. Burrow locations were strongly dependent on local geology and topography, with a tendency to orientate in conformance with the general aspect of the landscape. The timing of brumation was similar to records for G. agassizii throughout their range (with a few exceptions). There was no difference in the estimated number of burrows used per 30 days between the active seasons (2017 and 2018) at the Orocopia site, despite the occurrence of drought in 2018.

Keywords: Gopherus agassizii, Mojave Desert, hibernation, brumation, drought


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Please note that as from Volume 31 Number 1 (January 2021) on, the Herpetological Journal will be available as an online publication only - the last print edition will be Volume 30 Number 4.   

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