| ANALYSIS OF ACTIVITY PATTERNS AND HABITAT USE OF RADIOTRACKED AFRICAN BURROWING PYTHONS, CALABARIA REINHARDTII |
FRANCESCO M. ANGELICI A1, LUCA LUISELLI A1, MERCY A. INYANG A2, CYNTHIA EFFAH A3, LUCA LUISELLI A3
A1 Italian Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology (F.I.Z.V.), via Cleonia 30, I-00152 Rome, Italy and Institute of Environmental Studies DEMETRA, via dei Cochi 48/B, I-00133 Rome, Italy
A2 12 Editung Street, Eket, Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria
A3 26 Asikpo Street, Mbukpa, Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria
Five specimens of the burrowing python Calabaria (Charina) reinhardtii were radio tracked in a forest locality of southeastern Nigeria. The radio tracking study was conducted both during the dry season (320 locations) and the wet season (400 locations). Each of the specimens was below ground in more than 80% of the locations, both during the dry and the wet seasons. The various specimens were similar in terms of daily distribution of above- ground locations. Above-ground activity was normally confined to the night hours. Thick forest, forest clearings, and swamp-forest were the more frequently used habitat types. Cultivated land was used more frequently during the wet season, and suburbia was in general avoided. Both in the dry and in the wet seasons, the radio tracked specimens used the various habitat types independently of the relative percent surface occupied by a given habitat in the field. Intersexual differences in terms of habitat use were not statistically significant. Above ground, the frequency of utilization of the various substratum types by the radio tracked specimens differed significantly between seasons, but not between sexes. The pythons sheltered frequently inside termite nests, mainly inside those situated in forested spots, and especially during the dry season. All the monitored specimens were located significantly more frequently inside superficial than deep underground galleries, independently of the season. Social groups were observed only during the dry season. Mean daily movement rates were significantly higher in males than in females, and this pattern did not show any seasonal change. In general terms, a remarkable interseasonal ecological homogeneity in most of the examined life-history aspects was observed. This homogeneity could be interpreted as an evolutionary response to the year-round relatively stable and unfluctuating belowground environment.
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