Spiders provide important resources for an endangered lizard

Authors


  • Editor: Tim Halliday

Correspondence
C. Michael Bull, School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia. Tel: +61 8 8201 2263; Fax: +61 8 8201 3015
Email: michael.bull@flinders.edu.au

Abstract

Conservation management requires knowledge of how a target species interacts with other species. Some relatively common species can modify the environment to the advantage of rarer, endangered species. Thus, local enhancement of those common species can positively influence remaining populations of the rarer species. The endangered pygmy bluetongue lizard Tiliqua adelaidensis inhabits burrows that are constructed by lycosid and mygalomorph spiders. We recorded 490 burrows in a 1 ha plot at the end of one season, and then observed at regular intervals the formation and loss of burrows, and the changes in occupancy status of each burrow over the next season. We found spiders in 94% of all newly constructed burrows and deduced that they had built the burrows. We found no evidence that lizards dug new burrows or deepened existing burrows. The numbers of both lizards and spiders in the burrows declined over the spring and summer, with lizards moving from their burrows more often early in the season than later. However, there was no strong trend for lizards to replace spiders in burrows. In fact, lizards tended to occupy deeper burrows than spiders, suggesting little negative impact of lizards on spiders. However, spiders had a positive impact on lizards by providing the refuge burrows central for lizard survival. Although lizards readily accept artificial burrows, long-term conservation for the lizards must include viable spider populations to maintain a supply of suitable burrow refuges.

Ancillary