Researchers released geckos dusted with fluorescent powder into fields, and then tracked the glowing trails at night.
The technique – like something borrowed from a television crime drama – has helped ANU researchers to shed new light on the mysteries of animal navigation.
Crucially, their research could help improve biodiversity in farming landscapes.
The study revealed the geckos relied on certain cues to find their way – and could benefit from easy and cost-effective changes in landscape management.
These could include leaving isolated trees and planning the direction of sown crops.
“Large old scattered trees have been shown to have immense ecological, social and economic value,” said lead researcher Geoffrey Kay from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.
“Our work also shows that they are useful as visual flagpoles for native fauna navigating across the countryside.”
“Importantly, we’ve also discovered that movements between habitat patches are heavily influenced by the height of pasture, and the direction of sown crops in agricultural fields.”
Mr Kay said the discovery is important because land clearing and habitat fragmentation is the leading cause of biodiversity decline globally, and threatens Australian biodiversity.
The research demonstrated the need for stricter regulations to prevent the loss of critical habitat elements, such as old scattered trees, in agricultural landscapes.
You can read more about the research team’s findings here. Story credit: ANU newsroom.
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