The Landdroskop area in the Hottentots Holland Mountains as a refugium for melanistic lizard species : an analysis for conservation

Costandius, Eloise (2005-03)

Thesis (MSc (Botany and Zoology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


The Dwarf Crag Lizard, Pseudocordylus nebulosus, is one of several relict ectotherm species associated with the mistbelt of the Cape folded mountain belt. Prior to this study, it was only known from a single locality in the Hottentots Holland Mountains. In this study, the distribution range and microhabitat preferences of P. nebulosus were determined and resource partitioning among the three melanistic cordylids (C. oelofseni, P. capensis and P. nebulosus), co-occurring in this area, investigated. Using the locality where P. nebulosus was first discovered as centerpoint, surveys were conducted in all directions and the occurrence of all three melanistic species recorded. The previous known range of P. nebulosus, of only 0.04 km2, was extended to 11 km2. Of the three melanistic cordylids, P. nebulosus has by far the smallest range, completely overlapping with the ranges of both the other two melanistic cordylids. Pseudocordylus nebulosus was found to show a distinct affinity for water bodies such as mountain streams and seepage areas. Distinct differences in resource partitioning were found among the three species regarding crevice selection, which will prevent any significant competition during periods of environmental stress. Cordylus oelofseni preferred small crevices at ground level, P. capensis preferred large rock structures high above ground level and P. nebulosus utilized intermediate sized rock structures. Because of its relatively small range and melanistic colour, P. nebulosus could be a key indicator species of environmental change. Although the lack of objective fire management and global warming may be immediate threats to the survival of this species, possible illegal collection due to the easy access via the popular hiking trail in the area, is probably less significant a threat than was previously thought. Although its known range has been extended considerably, it is recommended that the Vulnerable status of P. nebulosus be maintained. This study provides baseline data that could be useful in future monitoring programmes to predict declines and fluctuations. In the second part of this study, the aim is to provide information about sexual dimorphism in P. nebulosus and to discuss the observed variation in sexual size dimorphism among montane cordylids. Data were recorded for all P. nebulosus individuals encountered in the Landdroskop area (Hottentots Holland Mountains), irrespective of size and sex. The total sample of 87 lizards recorded, consisted of 26 adult males, 49 adult females and 12 indeterminates. Size at sexual maturity was determined at 60 mm snout-vent length (SVL) for both sexes. The highly female-biased adult sex ratio recorded for P. nebulosus, is considered to be due to sampling error, gravid females probably basking more than males, making them easier to locate during searches. Generation glands were found to be present in males only and the number present was significantly correlated to body size. Both adult males and adult females possessed active femoral glands, but males had significantly more than females. Females were found to reach larger body sizes than males, but adult males had relatively larger heads than females. No significant difference in scar frequency was found between the male and female samples. Variation in sexual size dimorphism among montane cordylids is discussed and the need for more comprehensive data pointed out. The female-biased sexual size dimorphism in P. nebulosus and its sister species, P. capensis, is tentatively ascribed to fecundity selection for offspring to be large at birth in order to survive in a predictable unfavourable environment at high altitudes. Sexual dimorphism in head size is ascribed to sexual selection, males probably being territorial as in many other cordylids.

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