Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Environmental and ecological factors influencing dive behaviour in the freshwater snake Acrochordus arafurae: a field-based telemetric study

Kirstin L. Pratt A , Hamish A. Campbell A , Matthew E. Watts B C and Craig E. Franklin A D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

B The Ecology Centre, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

C Centre for Applied Environmental Decision Analysis, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: c.franklin@uq.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(5) 560-567 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF09194
Submitted: 4 August 2009  Accepted: 27 October 2009   Published: 28 May 2010

Abstract

Acrochordus arafurae is a fully aquatic, freshwater snake distributed throughout tropical Australia. To better understand the ecological factors influencing their behavioural repertoire, we remotely monitored field body temperature and diving in snakes free-ranging within their natural habitat. The body temperatures of A. arafurae exhibited a diel profile similar to the surface water temperature, and reflected the high proportion of time that snakes remained <1 m from the surface. The average dive depth was 0.62 m and 95% of dives had an average depth of 1 m or less. Snakes occasionally ventured into deeper water (>6 m), and there was a positive correlation between dive depth and duration. Average dive duration was 6.6 min and 84% of dives were terminated within 10 min, but all snakes performed dives >50 min during the 14-day observation period. We hypothesise that the dive behaviour was strongly influenced by predation pressure. The snakes partake in short dives within the aerobic dive limit to reduce the amount of time they need to spend at the surface on each breathing bout, reducing the risk of predation by birds. Predation is a strong selective force that might alter the time allocation during dive cycles.

Additional keywords: acoustic telemetry, aerobic dive limit, body temperature, dive depth, predation.


Acknowledgements

This work was conducted under permits issued by The University of Queensland Animal Ethics Committee (SIB/298/08) and the Environmental Protection Agency (WISP05144408). A. Boulton, G. Hays and an anonymous referee provided helpful comments that improved this manuscript. We thank Australia Zoo for their in-kind support and field assistance, in particular, Kelsey Mostyn. We also thank IMOS and AATAMS who supplied tracking equipment and VEMCO for subsidising tracking equipment through the Student Special scheme.


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