Characteristics of grouping in the Dominican Ground Lizard, Pholidoscelis fuscatus (Fitzinger, 1843)

Victoria L Grotbeck, Grace E Garrison, Maria A Eifler, Douglas A Eifler

Abstract


Animals form groups when membership provides a net benefit, but environmental conditions can contribute to intraspecific variation in sociality. We observed grouping behaviour in the Dominican Ground Lizard Pholidoscelis fuscatus (Fitzinger, 1843; formerly Ameiva) in two adjacent habitats differing in vegetation density to assess group characteristics and their environmental correlates. Demographic structure differed between sites, with the more open site having a preponderance of large individuals. Group size differed significantly between our two habitats, with larger groups occurring in the more open area. The spatial distribution of groups was not random, although we did not detect specific habitat characteristics associated with group formation. Groups tended to be composed of similar-sized individuals. Our study revealed differences in demographic structure and sociality; given the nature of the groups we observed, predation risk and foraging constraints may promote group formation. The balance of costs and benefits stemming from predator avoidance and finding food may serve to link ecological conditions and intraspecific variation in sociality.

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