Some like it hot : camera traps unravel the effects of weather conditions and predator presence on the activity levels of two lizards

Broeckhoven, Chris ; Mouton, Pieter Le Fras Nortier (2015)

CITATION: Broeckhoven, C. & Mouton, P. L. F. N., 2015. Some like it hot : camera traps unravel the effects of weather conditions and predator presence on the activity levels of two lizards. PLoS ONE, 10(9):1-15, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0137428.

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It is generally assumed that favourable weather conditions determine the activity levels of lizards, because of their temperature-dependent behavioural performance. Inactivity, however, might have a selective advantage over activity, as it could increase survival by reducing exposure to predators. Consequently, the effects of weather conditions on the activity patterns of lizards should be strongly influenced by the presence of predators. Using remote camera traps, we test the hypothesis that predator presence and weather conditions interact to modulate daily activity levels in two sedentary cordylid lizards, Karusasaurus polyzonus and Ouroborus cataphractus. While both species are closely related and have a fully overlapping distribution, the former is a fast-moving lightly armoured lizard, whereas the latter is a slow-moving heavily armoured lizard. The significant interspecific difference in antipredator morphology and consequently differential vulnerability to aerial and terrestrial predators, allowed us to unravel the effects of predation risk and weather conditions on activity levels. Our results demonstrate that K. polyzonus is predominantly active during summer, when ambient temperatures are favourable enough to permit activity. In contrast, a peak in activity during spring was observed in O. cataphractus, with individuals being inactive during most of summer. While favourable weather conditions had a strong effect on the activity levels of K. polyzonus, no such relationship was present in O. cataphractus. Contrary to our hypothesis, the presence of terrestrial predators does not seem to affect daily activity levels or alter the influence of weather conditions on activity levels. We conclude that inactivity in O. cataphractus appears to be related to seasonal differences in vulnerability to predators, rather than the presence of predators, and highlight the importance of additional selective pressures, such as food abundance, in determining the species’ activity levels.

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