Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Biology

Major Professor

Henry Mushinsky, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Earl McCoy, Ph.D.

Keywords

Lizard, Scrub, Fossorial, Sand-swimming, Heterogeneity

Abstract

The fossorial Florida Sand Skink (Plestiodon [=Neoseps] reynoldsi) inhabits a restricted range of scrub and sandhill fragments on the ridges of central Florida. The high rate of urban and agricultural development in this area necessitates conservation strategies other than land acquisition and management because of the limited remaining Florida Sand Skink habitat available. This study tests the viability of translocation as a conservation strategy for this species and assesses which features of a recipient site contribute to the successful establishment of a population. In 2007, 300 individuals were collected and moved from an intact scrub habitat, individually marked, and moved to a nearby reclaimed site with no existing Florida Sand Skink population. Fifteen 20 m² enclosures were constructed at the recipient site, and 20 skinks were randomly assigned to each. These enclosures were divided among five treatments, which were represented the range of habitat types at the donor site and differed in the presence or absence of a shade-providing object and coarse woody debris. Translocated skinks were monitored for two years to measure survival and reproduction. While survival and reproduction were apparent in all treatments, survival was significantly greater in enclosures with no shade-providing object and low soil moisture, and reproduction was most evident in enclosures with less light intensity and soil compaction.

Common measurement of environmental variables at the donor and recipient sites showed that all of the recipient site enclosures differed from the donor site in the amount of vegetative cover but contained the structural heterogeneity that is associated with Florida Sand Skink presence in the wild. This study indicates that translocation is a practical conservation strategy for this species, and my results can be used to inform protocol for future Florida Sand Skink translocation efforts.

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