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Competition of Marine Iguana Females (Amblyrhynchus Cristatus) for Egg-Laying Sites

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Egg-laying behaviour of marine iguana females (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) was studied on the island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos. Females (mean weight 1206 g, SVL 29.5 cm) wandered from the colonies on the lava coast to sandy areas, where in about 3 days they chose a place, dug a hole, and after laying guarded the site for ca 5 days (Fig. 1). Most females laid their 1-4 eggs, mean 96.9 g, between mid-February and early March (Fig. 2), when fights occurred between seeking and guarding females. Young hatched after ca 101 days (mean mass 61 g, mean SVL 10.2 cm). No connection could be found between laying date or number of females at the egg laying sites on the one hand and distance of laying site from the sea and substrate composition on the other. The distance of laying sites from cover was found to depend significantly on the laying date and strength of competition (Figs 3, 4); laying sites close to cover were first choice, but they were limited. Lightweight (weaker) females avoided strong competition at the laying peak by laying early or late (comp. Fig. 5). Eggs were guarded the longer the earlier they were laid (Fig. 6). Some medium-strength females invaded areas already occupied and laid in the peak period, but were expelled again by later intruders after 2-3 days. The clutches of these invaders were in effect guarded concomitantly.

Affiliations: 1: (Max-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie, D-8130 Seewiesen Post Starnberg, F.R.G


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