University of Tasmania

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Marriage, death and divorce: insights from a social lizard

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 15:06 authored by Geoffrey WhileGeoffrey While, Barnes, EA, Joanne McEvoyJoanne McEvoy, Uller, T, Erik WapstraErik Wapstra
Long term monogamy is the cornerstone of complex sociality across a broad range of species. Understanding the factors that influence the prevalence and stability of monogamous pairs is thus a fundamental challenge in behavioural ecology. Here we use a long term data set to examine patterns of social pairing, social stability and divorce in a monogamous lizard, Liopholis whitii. We show that the majority of individuals within a population enter into season long pair bonds with members of the opposite sex. Pair bond duration is highly variable with some pair bonds lasting only a single season while others pair bonds have lasted the duration of the study to date (8+ years). Despite the relatively high occurrence of long term pair bonds we found no benefits of pair duration in terms of reproductive output or efficiency. Divorce was relatively common. The main reason for divorce was the death of one or both partners. True divorce, where both individuals were still in the population was extremely rare – occurring in only 13% of pairs. The main factor influencing divorce appears to be incompatibilities between the male-female pair. New partners were less related, older and had higher reproductive output than previous partners. We suggest that long term monogamy in this system is a result of constraints on partner acquisition as opposed to any benefits derived from increased reproductive output/efficiency.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

Australian Society of Herpetologists AGM Conference


School of Natural Sciences

Event title

Australian Society of Herpetologists AGM Conference

Event Venue

Eildon, Victoria

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences

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