Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Science

First Committee Member

Charles Douglas

Number of Pages



General descriptions of courtship behavior have been published for the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii. However, the amount and sources of variation in courtship behaviors have not been documented. I examined courtship behavior by analyzing videotaped interactions between captive males and females. I calculated duration of three courtship phases (trailing, subduing, and mounting) and quantified the number and rate of rams and bites. Male courtship behavior changed with increased courtship experience, and smaller males showed more variable behavior than larger males. Larger males bit small females at higher rates than did smaller males. Courtship varied in response to female size. Large males bit smaller females at faster rates than they bit larger females, an indication of behavioral plasticity. Males in successful matings were larger, mounted longer, rammed less, and bit more than males in unsuccessful matings. These results lend insight into the sources and amount of variability in reptilian reproductive behaviors.


Agassizii; Analysis; Behaviors; Courtship; Desert; Gopherus; Tortoise

Controlled Subject

Zoology; Ecology; Behaviorism (Psychology)

File Format


File Size

1689.6 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit