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Effects of rainfall and geography on the comparative diets of eight rainbow lizard populations across Togo, Benin and Nigeria (West Africa)

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The diet composition of rainbow lizards (Agama agama complex) populations was studied by feces analysis at eight distant places across a mega-transect in the Gulf of Guinea (West Africa), covering three countries: Togo, Benin and Nigeria. The effects of geography (= linear distance between study sites) and local conditions (using the mean annual rainfall as a proxy of the site-specific conditions) on dietary similarity of rainbow lizards were tested. Rainbow lizards were mainly insectivorous at all sites. Multivariate analyses identified four main groups of localities in terms of diet diversity indexes, with populations inhabiting forest towns tending to have less prey taxa richness than conspecifics from more arid areas, which instead had higher dietary evenness. Food niche overlap between populations was high among populations (range 0.631-0.940, x = 0 . 839 ), and decreased with increases in the difference of mean annual rainfall between sites. There was no effect of the geographic distance on the similarity in diet composition between populations. A UPGMA dendrogram revealed a geographic trend in terms of presence/absence of the various prey types in the diets, with all the Nigerian study sites forming one cluster, whereas Lomé and Cotonou, two cities situated within the Dahomey Gap, being grouped apart. Overall, rainfall of the various sites seems to be more important than geographic distance for determining the taxonomic diet composition similarity of these lizards.

Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Applied and Environmental Biology, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, P.M.B. 5080, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria; 2: 2Centre of Environmental Studies Demetra, Rome, Italy


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