RAUK - Archived Forum - Leg waggling!

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Leg waggling!:

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GemmaJF
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Posted: 31 May 2008

Perfect conditions for watching reptiles today. Spent the afternoon watching lizards in the garden and also found a sub-adult grass snake which was nice.

Observed a behaviour for the first time. Only one large female was about and a number of sub-adults and juveniles. 3-4 large males actively seeking mates.

When the males approached the female (who already looks like she might be gravid) and the sub-adults I witnessed a fascinating behaviour. They supported their weight on their bellies and waggled both front legs frantically. This appeared to be a 'I'm not interested go away' message (as opposed to a 'I'm here come and get me'). Just wondered how many others have osbserved this behaviour in Lv or other species.

Tried for ages to get it on film, but as  you can guess all the waggling stopped when I got back outside with the camera.

Tried again to film it no luck, but did find two more grassies, both juveniles from last year (so all that work on the compost heap was worth it!!), silly Youtube vid of one of them:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgIjjQMiMig

GemmaJF39599.5116435185
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
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Posted: 31 May 2008
I guess nobody has seen it then
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Huddy
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Posted: 01 Jun 2008

Hi Gemma,

               The behaviour that you have witnessed in your Common lizards is not unusal . I have seen this sort of thing happen fairly frequently in both wild and captive sand, green lizards . I too would agree that this sort of posturing would indicate a nervous responce from the animal .


GemmaJF
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Posted: 01 Jun 2008
Thanks Huddy, strange it doesn't seem to appear in the literature. Too much recording numbers and not enough observation from fieldworkers I guess
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Vicar
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Posted: 01 Jun 2008
Hi Gemma,

I agree, I've not seen it in literature, but its quite usual. Pm also do a lot of front leg waving, I've always taken it as a submissive gesture, but it could equally be a b!$$@r off gesture :P

Steve Langham - Chairman    
Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group (SARG).
tim hamlett
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Posted: 01 Jun 2008

enjoyed the video gemma.

grass snakes and common lizards in your garden...you jammy thing!

tim


GemmaJF
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Posted: 01 Jun 2008

Tim, I think most people would be suprised how tiny the area in our garden actually is, just 4 years ago it was plain lawn with no chance of reptiles living there. 

With a bit of thought like putting in a hibernation bank, log and brash piles, a pond and compost heap and letting nature do the rest with minimal management it was very quickly colonised and the best bit it now supports breeding populations of both common lizard and grass snakes. 

Shows how quickly nature will get the upper hand if pushed in the right direction and is then left to get on with it.


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Peter
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Posted: 02 Jun 2008

I have observed "arm waving" or "waggling" in captive vivipara on a number occasions.  I took it as submission, appeasement or perhaps an indication that a female is not quite receptive.

Great work with your garden Gemma, well done.

Peter39601.1666782407



GemmaJF
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Posted: 02 Jun 2008

I based the 'go away' message mostly on the sub-adults that showed the behaviour.

They were too young I believe to mate though the males would have a go at a neck grab. Once the sub-adults were free they were doing the leg waggling - it is interesting that there are differing interpretations of what it might mean based on direct observations, suggests to me it might be a quite complex behaviour with different signals being passed depending on the circumstances, i.e. receptiveness, age etc, so we might have observed different reactions and different signals being passed by the same behaviour

Oh damn I will have to spend several years trying to film them now in the garden to better understand it all..


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
will
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Posted: 02 Jun 2008
'Foot waving' is mentioned by Colin Simms in his great little book 'Lives of British Lizards' (Goose, 1970); he says it is found in sand and viviparous lizards.   In the case of the latter species he says:

'This is seen very well when Viviparous Lizards greet or acknowledge each other.   The raised-forearm salute is not so exaggerated as when seen from other species, the raised forefoot opening and closing as it rocks about the wrist (carpal) joint.'

He suggests it is found in both sexes as well, but particularly when male lizards avoid a fight, perhaps as a distraction behaviour.   Mind you, he doesn't mention both forefeet being used at the same time !

GemmaJF
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Posted: 02 Jun 2008

Thanks for the reference Will, I have a copy of the book but didn't recall it mentioned the behaviour, have to give the book a re-read.

I observed the males waggling with one foot but it was a much more restrained effort. After the sub-adults did the both feet thing which is fairly comical and very rapid, sometimes the male would give some distance and do a single foot waggle as if to say 'OK, I get it', interestingly on the side in clear view of the other animal.

I'm fascinated by this and the interpretations. I'm thinking if I can get it on film it will be easier to see if there are different signals or just different meanings depending on the circumstances. Particularly as I have the opportunity to do this in the 'wild' environment of the garden rather than in captivity. Be good to put the films on here so we can view them as a group.

Any suggestions of a set-up I could use to get this on film, bearing in mind it is in the garden so I could plug into the mains and even monitor using my computer, I don't want to invest thousands but the cameras will need to be fairly good quality I guess? I'm thinking a couple of cameras set up pointing at a couple of prominent basking points on the log piles where I observed the behaviour, I would need a fairly wide angle but good resolution I guess?


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant

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