Maternal nesting behaviour in city dragons: a species with temperature-dependent sex determination

Urban environments present some of the greatest challenges to species survival. This is particularly true for species that exhibit thermally sensitive traits, such as temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). This is because urban environments not only present species with entirely novel ecosystems, but species will also experience increased temperatures. These temperature increases may result not only in offspring mortality, but also skewed population sex ratios. To persist in cities, urban dwellers with TSD will therefore need to adjust the temperature of the nesting environment, either through phenotypic plasticity or rapid evolution through natural selection. Here, we investigate the nesting ecology of a long-lived, urban dwelling reptile, the eastern water dragon (Intellagama lesueurii), to understand how a TSD species may respond to urban environments. Based on data collected from 72 nests over 2 nesting seasons, we show that city dragons not only dug significantly deeper nests than previously observed across their natural riparian habitat, but also nested in novel substrates. Furthermore, we observed a behaviour not previously described in this species, where mothers travel outside of their core home range to nest. This excursion behaviour potentially represents a greater maternal investment and is linked to the selection of specific microhabitats.