Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

The influences of prey, predators and habitat variables on drought-affected forest preference in a Darling Range endemic skink

Smithies, Sean (2016) The influences of prey, predators and habitat variables on drought-affected forest preference in a Darling Range endemic skink. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

[img]
Preview
PDF - Whole Thesis
Download (2MB) | Preview

Abstract

Large-scale canopy collapse occurred within the northern jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forest of southwest WA following a record hot and dry year/summer in 2010/11. The forest die-off had noted effects on the reptile communities. The endemic lizard Ctenotus delli (Scincidae) was recorded more frequently within drought-affected sites compared with adjacent apparently healthy intact regions. The present study investigated possible drivers for this apparent preference, quantifying: 1) leaf litter invertebrate assemblages and termite activity (prey influence); 2) predatory bird assemblages (predator influence); and 3) the effect of black and white disruptive markings on concealment of skinks in leaf litter (primary antipredatory response) between drought-affected and healthy sites. Leaf litter invertebrate assemblages did not differ across drought-affected and healthy sites, however, predatory bird assemblages varied significantly between drought-affected and healthy sites (P = 0.009) with greater numbers of predatory birds observed within healthy sites. Plasticine models of three variations (side-striped, back-striped, and plain) placed among various leaf litter densities revealed that side-striped models were attacked less severely (P =0.039) than back-striped models, although there were no differences in the total numbers of attacks recorded. Therefore, side-stripes (as found on C. delli) did not minimise detection but may increase survivorship. Further implementation of invertebrate trapping coupled with behavioural studies in avian predators across drought-affected and healthy sites may conclusively determine the selective pressures behind drought-affected site preferences of C. delli.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor(s): Fleming, Trish, Bateman, Bill, Hardy, Giles and Dundas, Shannon
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/34323
Item Control Page Item Control Page

Downloads

Downloads per month over past year