'Heaven' for serpents A mark-recapture study of tiger snakes (Notechis scutatus) on Carnac Island, Western Australia

X. Bonnet, D. Pearson, M. Ladyman, O. Lourdais, Don Bradshaw

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    54 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Animals resident on small islands provide excellent opportunities to carry out detailed mark-recapture studies. Populations are closed and ecosystems are often simpler than those of mainland sites. These factors enable the study of cryptic species that have otherwise been neglected. Snakes are notable for their secretive nature and, as a result, few natural populations have been accurately described through long-term mark-recapture monitoring. A population of tiger snakes (Notechis scutatus ) was studied on Carnac Island, a small limestone island (16 ha) off the coast of Western Australia. Population estimates show that snake density is very high, with more than 20 adult snakes per ha. This equates to a biomass of more than 100 kg of a top predator concentrated in a very small area. Such a high predator density can be explained because adult snakes feed mainly on chicks of nesting birds that breed in large colonies on Carnac but forage elsewhere. Substantial annual growth rates in body size in most individuals suggest that food availability is high on Carnac. Growth rates decreased more sharply in adult females than in males, whereas annual changes in body mass were similar in both sexes, probably because of the high energetic costs of reproduction experienced by females. Surprisingly, the sex ratio was highly biased, with males largely outnumbering females.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)442-450
    JournalAustral Ecology
    Volume27
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2002

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