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Title: The ecology of dispersal in lions (Panthera leo)
Author: Elliot, Nicholas Bryant
ISNI:       0000 0004 5354 1716
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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As ecosystems become increasingly fragmented, there has been a proliferation of research into fields such as resource use, movement ecology and habitat connectivity. To understand how species may adapt to threats associated with habitat fragmentation it is necessary to study these processes in dispersing individuals. However, this is seldom done. Dispersal is one of the most important life-history traits involved in species persistence and evolution, but the consequences of dispersal are determined primarily by those that survive to reproduce. Although dispersal is most effectively studied as a three-stage process (departure, transience and settlement), empirical studies rarely do so and an investigation into the entire process has probably never been carried out on any one species. Here I investigate the survival, resource use, movement ecology and connectivity of African lions (Panthera leo) in all three dispersal phases in addition to adulthood. I make use of a longterm dataset incorporating radio-telemetry and observational data from lions in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Dispersal is inherently risky and my results show that male lions that disperse while young suffer high mortality, young dispersal being brought about by high off-take of territorial males. Dispersing males may be aware of risks associated with territorial adults as they position themselves far from them and utilise habitats and resources differently. However, dispersers, compared to adult males and females, are far less averse of risky, anthropogenic landscapes, suggesting they are the demographic most prone to human-lion conflict. The ontogenetic movement behaviour of lions reflects a transition from directional movement during transience, suggestive of sequential search strategies, to random or periodic use of a fixed territory after settlement. In terms of habitat connectivity, I show that radically different conclusions emerge depending on which demographic is used to parameterise connectivity models. Understanding the shifting mechanisms that species adopt throughout ontogeny is critical to their conservation in an increasingly fragmented world.
Supervisor: Macdonald, David W.; Loveridge, Andrew J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Zoological sciences ; Biology ; Environment ; Genetics (life sciences) ; infanticide ; connectivity ; landscape resistance ; least-cost path ; movement ecology ; natal dispersal ; Panthera leo ; resistance surfaces