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Full Access Using faecal samples in lizard dietary studies

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Using faecal samples in lizard dietary studies

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While the use of faecal pellets is widely accepted as a primary methodological source of data for dietary studies, a recent paper advocated for the use of gut contents. This was due to the fact that faecal samples would give biased results of the diet of arthropod predators, due to a lower representation of soft-bodied prey in faecal pellets. To test this assumption, we compared the spring diet of several populations of two insular lizards from the Balearic Islands (Spain), Podarcis lilfordi and Podarcis pityusensis, using both faecal pellets and gut contents. Our results do not support the supposed bias of dietary analyses based on faecal pellets. Indeed, soft-bodied prey and particularly insect larvae are often equally represented in faecal pellets and gut contents. Alternatively, soft bodied prey are represented in different proportions in gut contents and faecal pellets, but in some cases with higher proportions being observed in the gut contents, and in other cases with higher proportions in faecal samples. We conclude that faecal pellets can be a reliable source of information for dietary studies.

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Biología Animal, Universidad de Salamanca, Campus Miguel de Unamuno, Edificio de Farmacia, 37071 Salamanca, Spain; 2: Demetra s.r.l. Environmental Studies Centre, via Olona 7, I-00198, Rome, Italy; 3: Museo di Storia Naturale dell'Università degli Studi di Firenze, Sezione di Zoologia "La Specola", via Romana 17, 50125 Florence, Italy


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