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Data from: Telemetry tails: A practical method for attaching animal-borne devices to small vertebrates in the field

Citation

Cornelsen, Kate A. et al. (2022), Data from: Telemetry tails: A practical method for attaching animal-borne devices to small vertebrates in the field, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vq83bk3sm

Abstract

Context. Continued miniaturisation of tracking technology increases its utility in animal applications. However, species morphology often dictates the type of animal-borne device (ABD) that can be used, and how it is attached. The morphology of species within Peramelemorphia preclude them from the standard collar attachment of ABDs for terrestrial mammals.

Aims. This paper describes a method for the tail-mount attachment of ABDs, and deployment results for Peramelemorphia across arid, semi-arid, and temperate Australia to (a) test the performance of attachments and ABDs in the field, and, (b) discuss the animal welfare considerations for this attachment method. 

Methods. Tail-mount attachment of ABDs were field-tested on a total of 80 greater bilbies (Macrotis lagotis), and 14 long-nosed bandicoots (Perameles nasuta). 

Key results. Time to natural detachment (TTND) was between 2 and 52 days with 65.74% (142 of 216) remaining on until manual removal. For ABDs that were manually removed, attachments were retained for up to 94 days. The method used for tail-mount attachment of ABDs to long-nosed bandicoots resulted in significantly shorter TTND compared to the method used for bilbies, and environmental factors (high temperatures and rainfall) had a negative effect on TTND. Tail-mount attached global positioning system (GPS) sensors collected large quantities of accurate data with a maximum fix success rate of 83.38%. Damage to GPS (antenna breakage and water ingress) during deployment, however, impacted performance. In environments with frequent rainfall and waterlogged soils, the tape on a small proportion (6.25%) of (n = 192) attachments to bilbies caused tail injury. All injuries were resolvable with most requiring minimal to no veterinary intervention. 

Key conclusions. Attachment longevity can be affected by how the ABD is mounted to the tail, the species, and the deployment environment. The environment can also affect which adhesive tapes are suitable for ABD attachment. However, this method is highly modifiable, practical for field application, and can have long retention times relative to other temporary methods.

Implications. This ABD tail-mount attachment method adds another tool to the telemetry tool-kit, with all the benefits of a low-tech, low-cost, passive drop-off type attachment. This method has demonstrated practicality for Peramelemorphia, with potential application to other suitable small vertebrates.

Methods

Information on methods for data collection are included in the readme.pdf file and associated paper.

Usage Notes

This data concerns animal body and device weights, attachment longevity and associated weather data, and animal capture-recapture records. Annotated R code is provided to replicate the attachment performance analyses, and the video can be used to support the method description for bilby tail-mount attachments in the associated paper.  Further information on this data can be found in the readme.pdf file.

Funding

Taronga Foundation, Centre for Ecosystem Science, R. Stapeley, APA Group, Save the Bilby Fund, Australian Research Council