Anthropogenically modified habitats favor bigger and bolder lizards

Lachlan Pettit, Gregory P. Brown, Georgia Ward‐Fear, Richard Shine

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1586-1597
Number of pages12
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number4
Early online date31 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • intraspecific
  • niche partitioning
  • resource subsidy
  • Varanidae


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