Ecology of southern African sandveld lizards (Lacertidae, Nucras)

Martin H. Van Der Meer, Martin J. Whiting, William R. Branch

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Sandveld lizards (genus Nucras) are widespread in southern Africa, but are generally secretive and poorly known. We examined 385 preserved specimens from five species of Nucras collected over a broad time span (104 years) and a geographic area covering most of South Africa and Swaziland. We had three main objectives: to test for sexual size dimorphism, to quantify male and female reproductive cycles, and to determine diet. In addition, we examined the importance of scorpions in the diet of Nucras based on previous studies reporting an unusually high incidence of scorpions in the diet of Kalahari N. tessellata. Males of all species except N. lalandii had significantly larger heads than females of the same body size, although females had significantly greater snoutvent length than males in three of the five species examined. The general reproductive pattern was for females to contain vitellogenic eggs during late spring and early summer. No females simultaneously contained oviductal and vitellogenic eggs, which suggests that females produce only one clutch per season. Clutch size was unrelated to female body size in all species examined. Female follicle volume generally coincided with male testicular volume, indicating for the most part synchronized reproductive cycles between the sexes. Testis volume was generally highest during springearly summer, with only N. holubi showing a second peak in autumn. We recorded 15 arthropod orders in the diet of Nucras. All species feed on invertebrates, primarily insects, and, to a lesser degree, spiders and centipedes. Termites, grasshoppers, and beetles both numerically and volumetrically dominated their diet. We found no evidence that scorpions form a major part of the diet of any of these five species of Nucras, including N. tessellata from biomes outside the Kalahari Desert.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-577
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2010


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