Diet and habitat use of frillneck lizards in a seasonal tropical environment

A.D. Griffiths, K.A. Christian

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A population of frillneck lizards, Chlamydosaurus kingii, was monitored by mark-recapture and telemetry over a 2 year period in Kakadu National Park. The aims of the study were to document changes in diet, growth, condition and habitat use between the wet and dry seasons of northern Australia, in light of recent research examining seasonal variation in the physiology of this species. Frillneck lizards feed on a diverse range of invertebrates in both seasons, even though there is a substantial reduction in food availability in the dry season. Harvester termites from the genus Drepanotermes constitute a major component of the diet, and the prevalence of termites in the diet of sedentary foragers in a tropical environment is unusual. Adult male body condition remained relatively stable throughout the year, but females experienced considerable variation. These differences are attributed to different reproductive roles of the sexes. Growth in C. kingii was restricted to the wet season, when food availability was high, and growth was minimal in the dry season when food availability was low. The method used in catching lizards was an important factor in determining seasonal habitat use. Telemetered lizards selected a significantly different distribution of tree species than was randomly available, and they selected significantly larger tree species during the dry season. Lizards spotted along roadsides showed little seasonal variation in the selection of tree species or tree sizes. The results suggest a comprehensive change in the ecology of this species, in response to an annual cycle of low food and moisture availability, followed by a period with few resource restrictions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)39-48
    Number of pages10
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 1996


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