Predators, prey or temperature? Mechanisms driving niche use of a foundation plant species by specialist lizards

Bell, Kristian J, Doherty, Tim S and Driscoll, Don A 2021, Predators, prey or temperature? Mechanisms driving niche use of a foundation plant species by specialist lizards, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: biological sciences, vol. 288, no. 1947, pp. 1-9, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2020.2633.

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Title Predators, prey or temperature? Mechanisms driving niche use of a foundation plant species by specialist lizards
Author(s) Bell, Kristian J
Doherty, Tim SORCID iD for Doherty, Tim S
Driscoll, Don AORCID iD for Driscoll, Don A
Journal name Proceedings of the Royal Society B: biological sciences
Volume number 288
Issue number 1947
Article ID 20202633
Start page 1
End page 9
Total pages 9
Publisher The Society
Place of publication London, Eng.
Publication date 2021-03-31
ISSN 0962-8452
Keyword(s) ecological niche
foundation species
functional habitat
individual preference
Summary Foundation species interact strongly with other species to profoundly influence communities, such as by providing food, refuge from predators or beneficial microclimates. We tested relative support for these mechanisms using spinifex grass (Triodia spp.), which is a foundation species of arid Australia that provides habitat for diverse lizard communities. We first compared the attributes of live and dead spinifex, bare ground and a structurally similar plant (Lomandra effusa), and then tested the relative strength of association of two spinifex specialist lizard species (Ctenophorus spinodomus and Ctenotus atlas) with spinifex using a mesocosm experiment. Temperatures were coolest within spinifex compared to bare ground and Lomandra. Invertebrate abundance and the threat of predation were indistinguishable between treatments, suggesting temperature attenuation may be a more important driver. Overall, the dragon C. spinodomus preferred live over dead spinifex, while the skink C. atlas preferred dead spinifex, particularly at warmer air temperatures. However, both species displayed individual variability in their use of available microhabitats, with some individuals rarely using spinifex. Our results provide an example of temperature attenuation by a foundation species driving niche use by ectothermic animals.
Language eng
DOI 10.1098/rspb.2020.2633
Indigenous content off
Field of Research 06 Biological Sciences
07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences
11 Medical and Health Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
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