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Title: Movement and dispersion of the smooth snake Coronella austriaca Laurenti in relation to habitat
Author: Gent, Antony Hugh
ISNI:       0000 0001 3493 7537
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 1988
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A study of the ecology of the smooth snake Coronella austriaca (f. Colubridae, Ophidia) was conducted on snakes from several locations within the New Forest, Hampshire, England. Field studies, which used a combination of radiotelemetry (with externally attached transmitters) and visual location, were supplemented by laboratory studies on the physiology, thermal biology and behaviour of the species. Short term movements in the field were generally small, with the median hourly rate equalling 0.54 m/ hr (n= 1074) and the equivalent daily rate being 13.30 m/ day (n= 138). Maximum movement rates were 44.26 m/ hr and 166.81 m/ day. Movement was greatest at intermediate field temperatures (typically 19.0° to 21.9°C). No difference was observed in movement between the sexes. Activity recording indicated that the species is almost exclusively diurnal. Home range areas were calculated using convex polygon analysis and varied between 34 m² and 17215 m², with a median of 688 m² (n= 55). These estimates were affected by sample size and observation period and were regarded as being underestimates of lifetime ranges. Although many habitat types were occupied, dry and humid heath, bracken and gorse/bramble bushes were selected by C. austriaca. The importance of less frequently used habitat types and the provision of 'corridors' between adjacent snake populations to the conservation of the species is discussed. The mean body temperature recorded in the field was 23.48°C ± 3.95 (n= 327), which was lower than the selected temperature measured in the laboratory (29.6°C ± 3.15 (n= 324). This appeared to reflect an inability to sustain 'preferred' body temperatures in the field due to climatic factors and the need for other behavioural considerations (e.g. foraging and cryptic anti-predator behaviour). A low food intake was suggested from field and laboratory observations. Low body temperatures, movement rates and food intake suggested that C. austriaca may be adapted to having a low energy throughput.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Snake movement behaviour