Exploring habitat selection in sea snakes using passive acoustic monitoring and Bayesian hierarchical models

Udyawer, V., Simpfendorfer, C.A., Read, M., Hamann, M., and Heupel, M.R. (2016) Exploring habitat selection in sea snakes using passive acoustic monitoring and Bayesian hierarchical models. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 546. pp. 249-262.

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Resource selection studies often use analytical techniques that provide information at either a population or an individual level. We applied a Bayesian hierarchical model that simultaneously estimates population- and individual-level habitat selection to explore how varying levels of dietary specialisation affect resource requirements of 2 species of sea snakes that occupy the same coastal environment. We used passive acoustic telemetry to monitor the movements of the 2 species—a dietary generalist, Hydrophis (Lapemis) curtus, and a dietary specialist, H. elegans—and investigated how individuals select habitats based on habitat type, depth and proximity to sources of freshwater within a nearshore environment. Composition of diets in both species was also assessed using regurgitated material from captured individuals. Selection of habitats by the 2 species differed, with H. elegans displaying an affinity for mudflat and seagrass habitats <4 km from sources of freshwater and depths <3 m. H. curtus selected for slightly deeper seagrass habitats (1-4 m) further from freshwater sources (2-5 km). Data from regurgitated material showed that the diet of H. curtus comprised at least 4 families of fish and displayed some level of intraspecific predation, whereas H. elegans preyed solely on eels. Both species predominantly selected seagrass areas, indicating that these habitats provide key resources for sea snakes within nearshore environments. The results illustrated the utility of Bayesian hierarchical models when analysing passive acoustic monitoring data to provide population-level habitat selection metrics and incorporate individual-level variability in selection, both of which are necessary to inform targeted management and conservation practices.

Item ID: 44187
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1616-1599
Keywords: acoustic telemetry, coastal habitat, Hydrophis(Lapemis)curtus, Hydrophis elegans, resource selection, dietary specialisation
Funders: National Environmental Research Program Tropical Ecosystems Hub, James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 18 May 2016 07:30
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410299 Ecological applications not elsewhere classified @ 30%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310901 Animal behaviour @ 40%
49 MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES > 4905 Statistics > 490510 Stochastic analysis and modelling @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960307 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts) @ 20%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
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