Dietary observations of four southern African agamid lizards (Agamidae)
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Analysis of stomach contents can provide insights into foraging mode, habitat use, and dietary specialization of animals. In this paper, we make observations on the poorly known diet of four southern African agamid species, Agama aculeata distanti (Eastern Ground Agama), Agama armata (Peter’s Ground Agama), Agama atra (Southern Rock Agama), and Acanthocercus atricollis (Southern Tree Agama). We examined the diet of 67 individuals by identifying and weighing prey items after stomach flushing lizards in the field. We found that these agama species fed on a broad spectrum of arthropods (11 orders). A high relative importance of ants was present for all agama species examined here, which suggests that ants are a major food source in the arid ecosystem. We found that active prey such as ants, beetles, and highly mobile flying insects like wasps and flies to be major components of the diet, indicating that these lizards are ambush predators. We also found that 43% of the stomachs contained herbaceous material and 39% contained sand particles. Agama atra had the most diverse dietary niche, eating fewer ants and more beetles, hemipterans, and dipterans than other species, whereas A. armata had a narrower dietary niche consisting mainly of ants. Lastly, although low in sample size, we found that juveniles qualitatively had a diet of functionally similar prey items, albeit with a narrower niche breadth, when compared to adults. We discuss how diet corresponds with differences in foraging behavior and habitat specialization.
- RESEARCH: Measey, J