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Geographical ecology of a Neotropical lizard: Ameiva ameiva (Teiidae) in Brazil

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The large-bodied teiid lizard Ameiva ameiva was studied at eight different sites in four major South American habitats of Brazil: caatinga, cerrado, Amazonian rain forest, and Amazonian savanna. We found striking similarity in ecological attributes of this lizard among very different habitats. Activity is concentrated in late morning and early afternoon; active body temperatures average 37.9 ± 0.09 °C and vary little among sites or throughout the day; the diet consists of a variety of vertebrates and invertebrates but is dominated by grasshoppers, roaches, beetles, spiders, and insect larvae; and niche breadths for prey are similar among study sites but the actual composition of the diets varies. There is minimal morphological variation among sites (mostly size); the most striking morphological variation is between the sexes. Males reach larger body sizes and have relatively larger heads than females. Juveniles have relatively larger heads than would be predicted on the basis of body size alone. Sexual selection may explain the sexual differences in head size of adults, whereas the relatively large heads of juveniles may be associated with food competition with sympatric teiid lizards. Clutch size varies from 1 to 11 eggs, is related to female body size (snout–vent length), and varied among study sites. Similar variation among sites occurs in egg size but not in relative clutch mass. An interesting positive relationship was found between body size and relative clutch mass. In a population from the state of Rondônia egg dry mass was correlated with female size, indicating that individual offspring size is, to some extent, a consequence of female size. The reproductive season is extended for all populations and it appears that predictability of rainfall may regulate the season length. Reasons for the apparent success of A. ameiva in a diversity of habitats on a large geographic scale include its large body size, foraging mode, and preferred microhabitat (ecotones and disturbed areas).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1994-11-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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