Spring diet and trophic partitioning in an alpine lizard community from Morocco
Oukaïmeden Plateau is a herpetologically rich locality in the High Atlas (Morocco) where four lizard species coexist in strict sympatry: three lacertids (Lacerta perspicillata chabanaudi, L. andreanszkyi and Podarcis vaucheri – formerly P. hispanica vaucheri) and one gekkonid (Quedenfeldtia trachyblepharus). The diet composition of this lizard community during the early spring was analysed based on 132 faecal pellets which could be individually assigned to a species and a size and sex class. Quedenfeldtia trachyblepharus had the highest prey number and the most specialized prey composition based mainly on small Coleoptera (62.5 ) which were consumed in aggregates. All three lacertids displayed higher but similar levels of populational prey diversity. Lacerta p. chabanaudi mainly fed on flying insects, whereas L. andreanszkyi and P. vaucheri had diets based on terrestrial prey. Larger lizards ate larger prey at both inter- and intraspecific levels. Species overlap was medium-high (48–84 ). Within species, P. vaucheri showed moderate segregation between males and females (74% overlap) whereas the other species did not (>94%). Pseudocommunity analyses revealed community structure based on segregation due to prey not consumed (species) and to the restriction of niche breadth (classes). The influences of species interactions on habitat use, restrictions in trophic availability and evolutionary history as determinant factors are discussed.
Keywords: trophic ecology, communities, pseudocommunity analysis, Lacerta perspicillata, Lacerta andreanszkyi, Podarcis vaucheri, Quedenfeldtia trachyblepharus, Morocco