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Oecologia. 2004 Aug;140(4):684-91. Epub 2004 Jul 14.

Competing for crevices: interspecific conflict influences retreat-site selection in montane lizards.

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University of Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia.


Direct interference competition between sympatric taxa affects habitat use and shelter-site selection in species within most major vertebrate lineages. However, studies on interspecific social interference in reptiles largely have been confined to research on interactions between non-native (invasive) species and native fauna. Does interspecific interference also influence habitat use within natural assemblages of reptiles? We studied five broadly sympatric species of viviparous montane skinks within the genera Egernia and Eulamprus in southeastern Australia. Previous work has shown strong interspecific overlap in abiotic attributes of shelter-sites for these taxa, but no joint occupancy of retreats. Laboratory trials in which we manipulated the identity of co-occurring lizards revealed frequent displacement from "preferred" (hotter) shelters, with interspecific interactions more intense than intraspecific conflicts. The five species displayed a linear interspecific dominance hierarchy, with larger species displacing smaller taxa. Field manipulations confirmed that interspecific interactions between these species affect shelter-site use. We conclude that direct agonistic encounters between individuals of different species strongly influence habitat use by lizards within this assemblage.

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