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Life on the Cliffs: The Ontogeny of Habitat Selection and Diet Shifts in Spiny-Tailed Iguanas (pp. 51-74) $100.00
Authors:  (Richard D. Durtsche, Northern Kentucky University, KY, USA)
Abstract:
The Mexican spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura pectinata) occupies various positions
on canyon walls, rock outcrops, and associated vegetative habitats. This study explores
the occupation of these habitats in relation to the ontogenetic shifts in size, morphological
condition, diet, and social structure among different age classes of this lizard. The pattern
of habitat selection and thermal ecology in this tropical iguanid lizard coincides with its
shifts ontogenetically from insectivory to herbivory. Determinants of habitat selection
varied based on body size, body coloration, and feeding strategy. The population was
size-structured, including two immature cohorts and adults. Five different habitats were
used by this population. Rock habitats (outcrops and cliffs) offered lizards the highest
temperatures ( = 44.7˚ C) but the least cover. Vegetation habitats, including herbaceous
plant, shrub, and tree habitats, offered variation in elevation and cover. Burrow habitats
provided lizards refuge against thermal extremes and predation. Adult lizards dominated
elevated positions ( = 7.6 m) through social status on food-scarce rock cliff and outcrop
habitats. In these positions, basking activity supported effective digestion of plants at
body temperatures ( = 34.8˚ 0.57˚ C) within the thermal performance range (33˚-38˚
C) throughout most of the day. Large adult body size and rock coloration, reduced
predation risks and facilitated territorial dominance over sub-adult lizards. Subadult
lizards were found in a wide range of other habitats. Juveniles were found only in lowerelevation
plant habitats (in shrubs, = 1.4 m), where body coloration statistically
matched that of the vegetation, and insect foods were abundant. Small size and low
thermal inertia allowed juveniles to maintain mean body temperatures similar to those of
adults in habitats with little direct sunlight. A model is proposed for sized- or life historybased
habitat selection in ectotherms that allows them to maintain active body
temperatures. 


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Life on the Cliffs: The Ontogeny of Habitat Selection and Diet Shifts in Spiny-Tailed Iguanas (pp. 51-74)