Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Anthropogenically modified habitats favor bigger and bolder lizards.

Abstract

Anthropogenic activities often create distinctive but discontinuously distributed habitat patches with abundant food but high risk of predation. Such sites can be most effectively utilized by individuals with specific behaviors and morphologies. Thus, a widespread species that contains a diversity of sizes and behavioral types may be pre-adapted to exploiting such hotspots. In eastern Australia, the giant (to >2 m) lizard Varanus varius (lace monitor) utilizes both disturbed (campground) and undisturbed (bushland) habitats. Our surveys of 27 sites show that lizards found in campgrounds tended to be larger and bolder than those in adjacent bushland. This divergence became even more marked after the arrival of a toxic invasive species (the cane toad, Rhinella marina) caused high mortality in larger and bolder lizards. Some of the behavioral divergences between campground and bushland lizards may be secondary consequences of differences in body size, but other habitat-associated divergences in behavior are due to habituation and/or nonrandom mortality.