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Ecological segregation in a subterranean reptile assemblage in arid Australia

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

The organisation of the subterranean component of an arid zone reptile community was studies in Kinchega National Park (Eastern Australia) from September 1985 to May 1987. Three species of fossorial or semifossorial lizards and two species of snakes were found in Kinchega. All species were habitat generalists, but microhabitat, food size and food taxon clearly separated them. All species were primarily nocturnal although Lerista xanthura was occasionally active during the day. All three lizard species were active from September to May. Activity of Eremiascincus richardsonii and L. xanthura were significantly correlated with monthly mean daily maximum and minimum temperatures. The optimum temperature of L. punctatovittata was 28.8 °C in daytime retreats. Biomass ranged from 505-900 g/ha in E. richardsonii and from 968-1152 g/ha in L. punctatovittata. All three lizard species produced only one clutch per year. L. punctatovittata and E. richardsonii reached sexual maturity at the end of their second year, L. xanthura matured in its first year. The data show that subterranean lizard guilds have a different structure than diurnal and non-fossorial noctunal lizard assemblies. The data also indicate a correlation of late maturity and low reproductive effort in fossorial lizards.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, Australian National University, GPO Box 4, Canberra, A.C.T. 2601 Australia


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