Contributions to Zoology, 74 (1/2) (2005)Luca Luiselli; Francesco M. Angelici; Massimiliano Di Vittorio; Antonio Spinnato; Edoardo Politano: Analysis of a herpetofaunal community from an altered marshy area in Sicily; with special remarks on habitat use (niche breadth and overlap), relative abundance of lizards and snakes, and the correlation between predator abundance and tail loss in lizards

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A field survey was conducted in a highly degraded barren environment in Sicily in order to investigate herpetofaunal community composition and structure, habitat use (niche breadth and overlap) and relative abundance of a snake predator and two species of lizard prey. The site was chosen because it has a simple community structure and thus there is potentially less ecological complexity to cloud any patterns observed. We found an unexpectedly high overlap in habitat use between the two closely related lizards that might be explained either by a high competition for space or through predator-mediated co-existence i.e. the prevention of the competitive exclusion of one lizard over the other. We also found a strong positive correlation between predator density and tail damage in lizards and we suggest that tail damage is a direct consequence of snake activity (because no other natural predators occur in the area).