An ecological study of the lizard fauna of Kaitorete Spit, Canterbury

Freeman, Alastair B.
Fields of Research
Baited pitfall traps were used to sample the lizard fauna at Birdlings Flat on Kaitorete Spit, Canterbury. Four species had been recorded previously from this area; Leiolopisma maccanni Patterson and Daugherty, Leiolopisma nigriplantare polychroma Patterson and Daugherty, Leiolopisma lineoocellatum (Dumeril and Dumeril) and Hoplodactylus maculatus (Gray). Three of these species (L. maccanni, L. n. polychroma and H. maculatus) were captured during the course of the study. The aim of this present study was to examine the nature of the ecological relationship among these three species at Birdlings Flat. Capture data indicated that L. maccanni was almost entirely confined to the dunelands while L. n. polychroma was associated exclusively with shrublands on old dune ridges behind the sand dunes. H. maculatus' distribution encompassed both of these major habitats. Separation on the basis of habitat was thought to be the most important niche variable for these two diurnal skinks. There was some temporal separation in activity of these two species, with L. maccanni active earlier in the day than L. n. polychroma. However, there was a high degree of overlap in the activity periods of these two species. Temporal differentiation between the nocturnal gecko H. maculatus and the two diurnal skinks is thought to be an important means by which these species coexist. The most common prey items consumed by all three species were Diptera, Araneae, C. propinqua seeds, Hemiptera, unidentified arthropod eggs, Coleoptera and Hymenoptera. Dietary differences between the two skink species were apparent although these differences appeared to be related to the preferred habitats of the respective species. Density estimates for L. maccanni varied between 1050/ha and 1850/ha while L. n. polychroma density varied between 200/ha and 400/ha. The density of H. maculatus was not calculated but appeared to be intermediate to the density of the two skink species. The apparent disappearance of L. lineoocellatum from an area where they were once relatively common is cause for concern. There is no obvious reason for this decline although it may be related to the combined impacts of predation, collection and habitat disturbance.