Life stage, sex, and behavior shape habitat selection and influence conservation strategies for a threatened fossorial mammal
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ICAS - Instituto de Conservação de Animais Silvestres
RZSS - Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
Houston Zoo
Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul
Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biologia Animal, Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul
Online publication date: 2020-11-18
Corresponding author
Arnaud Leonard Jean Desbiez   

ICAS - Instituto de Conservação de Animais Silvestres
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2020;31(2):123-129
Article (PDF)
Resource selection provides essential information about species strategies to meet their biological requirements, and is key for conservation strategies development. Although intraspecific variation in behavior is widespread, most resource selection studies have ignored intrapopulation variability. We aim to understand if individuals have different habitat selection preferences depending on life stage, sex, and behavioral state. As a model, we use the vulnerable fossorial giant armadillo Priodontes maximus in the Pantanal. We tracked 23 individuals between 2010 and 2018 using telemetry (12240 locations). Habitat selection during activity and rest were estimated using step and resource selection functions, respectively. Giant armadillos selected different landscape features according to sex, life stage and behavioral state highlighting the potential bias in habitat selection studies based only on one life stage or behavioral state, especially for fossorial species. Younger individuals presented higher selection strength of forests, with denser vegetation and less predation risk, for activity and rest, which is not common for species with long parental care. Sexual differences evidenced that females, which are exclusively responsible for parental care, presented stronger selection of forests and closed savannas during rest. Closed savannas, with high food availability, were selected for activity irrespective of sex or age. Floodable areas were selected only by adult males, presumably to improve mobility. Our findings indicated that females select habitats in a way to balance offspring safety and food availability, while males are risk takers and explore space widely. Forests showed to be fundamental for the species survival, especially during early life stages. Unfortunately, harmful management practices recently adopted, e.g., conversion of forests into pasture and fires, affect the habitats selected by this ecosystem engineer. Giant armadillos can act as umbrella species, as strategies targeted at protecting this charismatic large mammal could provide wider benefits for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services in the Pantanal.
This study was performed under License No. 27587 from the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, granting permission to capture, immobilize, and manipulate armadillos, and collect and store biological samples. All procedures followed the Guidelines of the American Society of Mammalogists for the use of wild mammals in research (Sikes et al., 2016). We are grateful to the owners of the Fazenda Baía das Pedras for their hospitality, generous support, and permission to work on their land. This study is part of the Giant Armadillo Conservation Program, which benefited from multiple grants, mostly from Zoos in North America and Europe, listed at Finally, we thank Bruna Oliveira and Yamil Di Blanco for their help producing the habitat map of the study area as well as B. Loiselle, D. Olaechea, M. Puri, and V. Celino for their valuable comments on the initial version of this manuscript.
NA thanks to the Jacksonville Zoo and Biofaces for the financial support. LGRO-S thanks Capes (process 88881.311897/2018-01) for financial support.
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