Identifying Mechanisms of Persistence for Ground Lizards (Reptilia: Ameiva) in the Caribbean Informed Habitat, Physiology, and Predation
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Understanding what allows species to persist is a complex challenge for biodiversity conservation. Biophysical constraints on habitat use and predator evasion can affect the persistence of at-risk species. To study persistence of species threatened by invasive predators, I integrated 1) field surveys to quantify the habitat use of a lizard species (Ameiva polops) that is rare across its landscape due to predation pressure; 2) habitat models to identify suitable habitat for the same rare species; and 3) physiological trials to determine if the widespread persistence of a closely-related lizard species (Ameiva exsul) where predators occur is aided by shifts in its thermal ecology. Multiple datasets generated from my dissertation included field surveys, population demographic models, and physiological datasets. By incorporating fine-scale physiological data into population abundance models, I found that temperature was important for rare and widespread lizards in the genus Ameiva. I estimated occupancy and abundance of Ameiva polops incorporating thermal landscapes (Chapter II). Evaluating the landscape of threats on St. Croix, we find that Ameiva polops may be repatriated to parts of its historic range despite existing threats at broader scales (Chapter III). Last, where widespread species Ameiva exsul co-occurs with mongoose predators, individual lizards have population-level increases in upper thermoregulatory temperatures (Chapter IV). As a student in the Applied Biodiversity Science Program, I worked with local actors and institutions to implement and promote conservation actions related to these findings.
Angeli, Nicole Frances (2017). Identifying Mechanisms of Persistence for Ground Lizards (Reptilia: Ameiva) in the Caribbean Informed Habitat, Physiology, and Predation. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from