Rarity in Australian desert lizards



Most species of Australian desert lizards are uncommon. Possible causes of rarity are examined, including body size as measured by snout–vent length (SVL), fecundity, number of sites occupied, habitat niche breadth, microhabitat niche breadth, dietary niche breadth, and average total niche overlap with other species. Rare species tend to be larger with lower fecundities than abundant species and they occur at fewer sites. Many, but not all, uncommon species are specialists, either in habitat, microhabitat, or diet. The niche breadth hypothesis, which states that abundant species should be generalists whereas specialized species should be rare, is tested, but rejected as a general explanation for rarity. Some uncommon species exhibit high overlap with other species suggesting that they may experience diffuse competition. However, no single cause of rarity can be identified, but rather each species has its own idiosyncratic reasons for being uncommon. Multivariate analyses show distinct ecological differences between abundant and uncommon species.