Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

An experimental study of the effects of weed invasion on lizard phenotypes.

Abstract

We examined how a weed affected the basking and activity of a diurnal lizard, and the potential cascading effects of these shifts for life history strategies and expression of morphology. Hatchlings of the diurnal lizard Lampropholis delicata were raised to maturity in outdoor enclosures that mimicked high, moderate and low invasion by a sprawling plant (blue periwinkle, Vinca major). Skinks depend on sunlight for growth and maintenance. Periwinkle differs from displaced grassland by being structurally complex and blocking sunlight. Lizards restricted to the enclosure floor achieved preferred body temperatures only when exposure to periwinkle was moderate or low. However, lizards in high invasion enclosures could reach preferred body temperatures by climbing plants and basking on exposed canopy. This shift in basking strategy resulted in lizards growing longer hind limbs compared with animals that rarely (moderate invasion) and never (low invasion) climbed plants. Consequently, lizards reared in high invasion enclosures sprinted faster than conspecifics reared in lower invasion environments. Throughout the study there was no significant variation among treatments in the tendency of animals to be moving when they were not hidden. However, lizards in high invasion treatments hid more often during the day, were lighter in body mass, and females had lighter clutch masses and offspring than did those from moderate and low invasion enclosures. Thus, microhabitat degradation can drive a cascade of changes to an animal's ecology.