Translocation, genetic structure and homing ability confirm geographic barriers disrupt saltwater crocodile movement and dispersal

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Abstract

Translocated saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia often return to their original capture sites, which complicates management interventions aimed at reducing human-crocodile conflict. We examined the spatial events implicated in this homing ability, using ARGOS satellite tracking devices. Five large male C. porosus (3.03 m to 4.02 m TL) were shifted and released 100–320 km from their capture sites, and 3 additional ones (3.67 m to 4.23 m TL) were released at their site of capture as controls. Translocated crocodiles were more mobile than the controls, and moved at sea in the direction of their original capture site. However, they were unable or unwilling to swim around a geographic structure, Cobourg Peninsula, which prevented homing being achieved in all five cases. Two control crocodiles remained near their capture sites, but one, after the first year, made a 900km journey for six months, before returning to its original capture and release site. Genetic analysis of tissue samples from nests across the NT coast demonstrated significant genetic structure across the coast, and confirmed that Cobourg Peninsula contributes to genetic differentiation among populations along the NT coast. These results provide new insights into C. porosus movements, which have management significance for the maintenance of public safety.

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Fukuda, Y., Webb, G., Manolis, C., Lindner, G., & Banks, S. (2019). Translocation, genetic structure and homing ability confirm geographic barriers disrupt saltwater crocodile movement and dispersal. PLoS ONE, 14(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0205862

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