African Zoology

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Picking a tree: habitat use by the tree agama, Acanthocercus atricollis atricollis, in South Africa

Leeann T. Reaney, Martin J. Whiting


We studied tree agama (Acanthocercus a. atricollis) habitat use in the Magaliesberg mountain range in northern South Africa using sightings of marked individuals, and in a few cases, radio-telemetry. Acanthocercus a. atricollis preferentially selected thorn trees (46%; Acacia karroo), followed by common sugarbush (10%; Protea caffra) and dead trees (9%). The type of tree selected was unrelated to lizard age class or sex. Multivariate analysis failed to show any age class or sex effects for specific tree physical characteristics, but did reveal a preference for trees with greater diameter, canopy cover and incidence of parasitic plants. We suggest that more ‘complex’ trees may enhance crypsis, facilitate escape from predation, or provide a foraging advantage. Acanthocercus a. atricollis selected night-time perches higher than those used during the day, possibly further offsetting predation risk.

Keywords: tree selection, age-sex differences, nocturnal retreat sites, lizard, reptile
AJOL African Journals Online