Spatial ecology of an arboreal iguana (Oplurus cyclurus) in a treeless landscape

  • Articles in SCI Journals
  • Dec, 2023

Licata, F., Bergò, P.E., Edmonds, D., Andreone, F. & Rosa, G.M. (2023) Spatial ecology of an arboreal iguana (Oplurus cyclurus) in a treeless landscape.

Animals, 13(20), 3198. DOI:10.3390/ani13203198 (IF2022 3,0; Q1 Veterinary Sciences)

Understanding the spatial ecology of species has important implications for conservation, as it helps identify suitable habitats and minimum requirements for biodiversity monitoring and management. The spiny-tailed lizard Oplurus cyclurus is a widespread endemic iguanid occurring in dry areas of southern and western Madagascar. While the species is known to be mostly arboreal, populations of the Isalo sandstone massif suggest local adaptation to a less forested savannah and a more exposed habitat. We radio-tracked 19 spiny-tailed lizards to investigate the species’ rock-dwelling behaviour and spatial ecology at Isalo National Park. Tracked individuals showed high site and burrow fidelity, and a basking behaviour mostly tied to the accessibility of their burrow, the time of day, and their life stage. Activity peaked during the sunniest hours, while juveniles were more active than adults with unfavourable weather conditions. Despite high burrow fidelity, lizards used shelters non-exclusively, regularly changing (approx. once a week) with neighbouring burrows (average distance between burrows = 13.6 m). However, there was no obvious relation between lizards’ body and/or tail size and the width and depth of selected burrows. Dynamic Brownian Bridge Movement Models estimated frequented areas over 247.8 m2 (95% isopleth), where territorial overlap is common. Our results challenge the notion that burrow-site fidelity is the sole driving factor behind space utilization in the studied population. We argue that the apparently unusual saxicolous habits imposed by habitat features (the absence of trees) may lead to local behavioural adjustments influencing antipredatory and foraging strategies, as well as intraspecific interactions.


  • Spatial ecology of an arboreal iguana (Oplurus cyclurus) in a treeless landscape Gonçalo M. Rosa Conservation in Socio-Ecological Systems - CSES